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Title: Smoky the Cowhorse (1927)
Author: Will James
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0700111.txt
Language:  English
Date first posted: January 2007
Date most recently updated: January 2007

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Title: Smoky the Cowhorse (1927)
Author: Will James



PREFACE

To my way of thinking there's something wrong, or missing, with
any person who hasn't got a soft spot in their heart for an
animal of some kind. With most folks the dog stands highest as
man's friend, then comes the horse, with others the cat is liked
best as a pet, or a monkey is fussed over; but whatever kind of
animal it is a person likes, it's all hunkydory so long as
there's a place in the heart for one or a few of them.

I've never yet went wrong in sizing up a man by the kind of a
horse he rode. A good horse always packs a good man, and I've
always dodged the hombre what had no thought nor liking for his
horse or other animals, for I figger that kind of gazabo is best
to be left unacquainted with. No good would ever come of the
meeting.

With me, my weakness lays towards the horse. My life, from the
time I first squinted at daylight, has been with horses. I admire
every step that crethure makes. I know them and been thru so much
with 'em that I've come to figger a big mistake was made when the
horse was classed as an animal. To me, the horse is man's
greatest, most useful, faithful, and powerful friend. He never
whines when he's hungry or sore footed or tired, and he'll keep
on a going for the human till he drops.

The horse is not appreciated and never will be appreciated
enough,--few humans, even them that works him, really know him,
but then there's so much to know about him. I've wrote this book
on only one horse and when I first started it I was afraid I'd
run out of something to write, but I wasn't half thru when I
begin to realize I had to do some squeezing to get the things in
I wanted; and when I come to the last chapter was when I seen how
if I spent my life writing on the horse alone and lived to be a
hundred I'd only said maybe half of what I feel ought to be said.

The horse I wrote of in this book is not an exception, there's
quite a few like him. He's not a fiction horse that's wrote about
in a dream and made to do things that's against the nature of a
horse to do. Smoky is just a horse, but all horse; and that I
think is enough said.

As for Clint, the cowboy who "started" Smoky, he's no exception
either. He's just a man who was able to see and bring out the
good that was in the horse--and no matter how some writers
describe the cowboy's handling of horses, I'm here to say that I
can produce many a cowboy what can show feelings for a horse the
same as Clint done.

But Smoky met other humans besides Clint, many others, and of all
kinds, and that's where the story comes in. And now, my main
ambition as I turn Smoky loose to making hisself acquainted is
that the folks who will get to know him will see that horse as I
seen him.



CONTENTS

I.      A RANGE COLT
II.     SMOKY MEETS THE HUMAN
III.    WHERE THE TRAILS FORK
IV.     THE END OF A ROPE
V.      THE BRONC TWISTER STEPS UP
VI.     "THE SQUEAK OF LEATHER"
VII.    SMOKY SHOWS HIS FEELINGS
VIII.   SMOKY STARTS OUT
IX.     FIGHTS FOR RIGHTS
X.      "AMONGST THE MISSING"
XI.     "THE FEEL OF A STRANGE HAND"
XII.    "WHEN THE GOOD LEAVES"
XIII.   "A MANY-MEN HORSE"
XIV.    "DARK CLOUDS, THEN TALL GRASS"



[ILLUSTRATIONS

(not included in this text version--see html version)

His ears begin to work back and forth
His long legs tangled and untangled themselves as he run
His mammy shot up the hill, took in the goings-on at a glance,
   and lit into the cayote like a ton of dynamite
Smoky had 'em all buffaloed
And as his mammy went to join the bunch, he followed
The lion had figgered on his victim a jumping to one side at his  leap
He got strong headed and full of mischief
There's bowed necks as the three touch nostrils
Smoky done a side swipe that was quicker than chained lightning
The cowboy still hanging onto the rope that held his head, came on
He didn't forget how he was stopped, and so sudden, that first time he'd
   tried to break with an empty saddle
A hand touched him on the forehead
A glance back showed Smoky the rider was still there
Smoky wondered what a rope was doing up there
The bush came out and headed straight for Smoky
He liked to chase the wild-eyed cow
Smoky's eyes was on Jeff with a steady warning in 'em
Smoky stuck his head and neck out far as he could and nickered
Clint stopped, and felt of Smoky's hide once more
Feed was aplenty and the little pawing only kept his blood in good
   circulating order
The black was jerked off his feet
The two was often busy scratching one another
Clint raised a hand and held it to within a few inches of his nose
Smoky bowed his head and went out from under him
It was worth the price of a good show to watch Smoky
Next day Clint was busy bringing the weak stock to the ranch
Heavy drifts was lunged into and hit on a high run
And even tho cattle is what the round-up wagons was out for, there
   was more eyes out for Smoky
Clint'd keep on comparing whatever horse he'd be riding with Smoky
A rope had settled around his neck once, he'd fought till it broke
The cowboy took off the foot ropes
Smoky's interest was all for shedding the saddle right then
That pony had been harder to get near than any of the wild ones
The breed would often watch him thru the corral poles and wonder
The horse had been found out on the desert
His fame as a man-hating, bucking outlaw begin to spread
Out would come a tearing, bellering hunk of steel coils
The Cougar reared up while the rider was still in the air
The mouse colored outlaw peeked thru the bars of the chute at him
He wasn't caring right then if it was said that he didn't ride the horse
   to the finish
The long horned "Sonora reds" begin to spread
No remuda got by that Clint didn't ride thru...
As he stepped out to get a bucket of water the morning sun throwed a
   shadow on the door]



CHAPTER I

A RANGE COLT


It seemed like Mother Nature was sure agreeable that day when the
little black colt came to the range world, and tried to get a
footing with his long wobblety legs on the brown prairie sod.
Short stems of new green grass was trying to make their way up
thru the last year's faded growth, and reaching for the sun's
warm rays. Taking in all that could be seen, felt, and inhaled,
there was no day, time, nor place that could beat that spring
morning on the sunny side of the low prairie butte where Smoky
the colt was foaled.

"Smoky" wouldn't have fitted the colt as a name just then on
account he was jet black, but that name wasn't attached onto him
till he was a four-year-old, which was when he first started
being useful as a saddle horse. He didn't see the first light of
day thru no box stall window, and there was no human around to
make a fuss over him and try to steady him on his feet for them
first few steps. Smoky was just a little range colt, and all the
company he had that first morning of his life was his watchful
mammy.

Smoky wasn't quite an hour old when he begin to take interest in
things. The warm spring sun was doing its work and kept a pouring
warmth all over that slick little black hide, and right on thru
his little body, till pretty soon his head come up kinda shaky
and he begin nosing around them long front legs that was
stretched out in front of him. His mammy was close by him, and at
the first move the colt made she rim her nose along his short
neck and nickered. Smoky's head went up another two inches at the
sound, and his first little answering nicker was heard. Of course
a person would of had to listen mighty close to hear it, but then
if you'd a watched his nostrils quivering you could tell that's
just what he was trying to do.

That was the starting of Smoky. Pretty soon his ears begin to
work back and forth towards the sound his mammy would make as she
moved. He was trying to locate just where she was. Then something
moved right in front of his nose about a foot; it'd been there quite
a good spell but he'd never realized it before; besides his vision
was a little dim yet and he wasn't interested much till that something
moved again and planted itself still closer.

Being it was right close he took a sniff at it. That sniff
recorded itself into his brain and as much as told him that all
was well. It was one of his mammy's legs. His ears perked up and
he tried nickering again with a heap better result than the first
time.

One good thing called for another and natural like he made a
sudden scramble to get up, but his legs wouldn't work right, and
just about when he'd got his belly clear of the ground, and as he
was resting there for another try at the rest of the way up, one
of his front legs quivered and buckled at the elbow, and the
whole works went down.

He layed there flat on his side and breathing hard. His mammy
nickered encouragement, and it wasn't long when his head was up
again and his legs spraddled out all around him the same as
before. He was going to try again, but next time he was going to
be more sure of his ground. He was studying it seemed like, and
sniffing of his legs and then the earth, like he was trying to
figger out how he was going to get one to stand up on the other.
His mammy kept a circling around and a talking to him in horse
language; she'd give him a shove with her nose then walk away and
watch him.

The spring air, which I think is most for the benefit of all
that's young, had a lot to do to keep Smoky from laying still for
very long. His vision was getting clearer fast, and his strength
was coming in just as fast. Not far away, but still too far for
Smoky to see, was little calves, little white-faced fellers a
playing and bucking around and letting out wall-eyed bellers at
their mammies, running out a ways and then running back, tails
up, at a speed that'd make a greyhound blush for shame.

There was other little colts too all a cavorting around and
tearing up good sod, but with all them calves and colts that was
with the bunches of cattle or horses scattered out on the range,
the same experience of helplessness that Smoky was going thru had
been theirs for a spell, and a few hadn't been as lucky as Smoky
in their first squint at daylight. Them few had come to the range
world when the ground was still covered with snow, or else cold
spring rains was a pouring down to wet 'em to the bone.

Smoky's mother had sneaked out of the bunch a few days before
Smoky came, and hid in a lonely spot where she'd be sure that no
cattle nor horses or even riders would be around. In a few days,
and when Smoky would be strong enough to lope out, she'd go back
again; but in the meantime she wanted to be alone with her colt
and put all her attention on him, without having to contend with
chasing off big inquisitive geldings or jealous fillies.

She was of range blood, which means mostly mustang with strains
of Steeldust or Coach throwed in. If hard winters come and the
range was covered with heavy snows, she knowed of high ridges
where the strong winds kept a few spots bare and where feed could
be got. If droughts came to dry up the grass and water holes, she
sniffed the air for moisture and drifted out acrost the plain
which was her home range, to the high mountains where things was
more normal. There was cougars and wolves in that high country,
but her mustang instinct made her the "fittest." She circled
around and never went under where the lion was perched a waiting
for her, and the wolf never found her where she could be
cornered.

Smoky had inherited that same instinct of his mammy's, but on
that quiet spring morning he wasn't at all worried about enemies.
His mammy was there, and besides he had a hard job ahead that was
taking all of his mind to figger out: that was to stand on them
long things which was fastened to his body and which kept a
spraddling out in all directions.

The first thing to do was to gather 'em under him and try again.
He did that easy enough, and then he waited and gathered up all
the strength that was in him. He sniffed at the ground to make
sure it was there and then his head went up, his front feet
stretched out in front of him, and with his hind legs all under
him, he used all that strength he'd been storing up and pushed
himself up on his front feet, his hind legs straightened up to
steady him; and as luck would have it there was just enough
distance between each leg to keep him up there. All be had to do
was to keep them legs stiff and from buckling up under him, which
wasn't at all easy, cause getting up to where he was had used up
a lot of his strength, and them long legs of his was doing a heap
of shaking.

All would of been well maybe, only his mammy nickered "that's a
good boy," and that's what queered Smoky. His head went up proud
as a peacock and he forgot all about keeping his props stiff and
under him. Down he went the whole length of his legs, and there
he layed the same as before.

But he didn't lay long this time. He either liked the sport of
going up and coming down or else he was getting peeved; he was up
again, mighty shaky, but he was up sure enough. His mammy came to
him. She sniffed at him and he sniffed back. Then nature played
another hand and he nursed, the first nourishment was took in,
his tummy warmed up and strength came fast. Smoky was an hour and
a half old and up to stay.

The rest of that day was full of events for Smoky. He explored
the whole country, went up big mountains two feet high, wide
valleys six or eight feet acrost, and at one time was as far as
twelve feet away from his mammy all by himself. He shied at a
rock once; it was a dangerous-looking rock, and he kicked at it
as he went past. All that action being put on at once come pretty
near being too much for him and he come close to measuring his
whole length on Mother Earth once again. But luck was with him,
and taking it all he had a mighty good time. When the sun went to
sinking over the blue ridges in the West, Smoky, he missed all
the beauty of the first sunset in his life;--he was stretched out
full length, of his own accord this time, and sound asleep.

The night was a mighty good rival of what the day had been. All
the stars was out and showing off, and the braves was a chasing
the buffalo plum around the Big Dipper, the water hole of The
Happy Hunting Grounds. But all that was lost to Smoky; he was
still asleep and recuperating from his first day's adventures,
and most likely he'd kept on sleeping for a good long spell, only
his mammy who was standing guard over him happened to get a
little too close and stepped on his tail.

Smoky must of been in the middle of some bad dream. His natural
instinct might of pictured some enemy to his mind, and something
that looked like a wolf or a bear must of had him cornered for
sure. Anyway, when he felt his tail pinched that way he figgered
that when a feller begins to feel it's sure time to act, and he
did. He shot up right under his mammy's chin, let out a squeal,
and stood there ready to fight. He took in the country for feet
and feet around and looking for the enemy that'd nipped him,
and finally in his scouting around that way he run acrost the
shadow of his mammy. That meant but one thing, safety; and that
accounted for and put away as past left room for a craving he'd
never noticed in his excitement. He was hungry, and proceeded
right then and there to take on a feed of his mammy's warm, rich
milk.

The sky was beginning to get light in the East, the stars was
fading away and the buffalo hunters had went to rest. A few hours
had passed since Smoky had been woke up out of his bad dream and
there he was, asleep again. He'd missed his first sunset and now
he was sleeping thru his first sunrise, but he was going to be
prepared for that new day's run, and the strength he was
accumulating through them sleeps and between feeds would sure
make him fit to cover a lot of territory.

There wasn't a move out of him till the sun was well up and
beginning to throw a good heat. He stacked up on a lot of that
heat, and pretty soon one of his ears moved, then the other. He
took a long breath and stretched. Smoky was coming to life.--His
mammy nickered, and that done the trick; Smoky raised his head,
looked around, and proceeded to get up. After a little time that
was done and bowing his neck he stretched again. Smoky was ready
for another day.

The big day started right after Smoky had his feed; then his
mother went to grazing and moving away straight to the direction
of some trees a mile or so to the south. A clear spring was by
them trees, and water is what Smoky's mammy wanted the most right
then. She was craving for a drink of that cold water, but you'd
never thought it by the way she traveled. She'd nose around at
the grass and wait for spells, so as little Smoky could keep up
with her and still find time to investigate everything what
throwed a shadow.

A baby cottontail had jumped up once right under his nose, stood
there a second too scared to move, and pretty soon made a high
dive between the colt's long legs and hit for his hole; Smoky
never seen the rabbit or even knowed he was there or he might of
been running yet, cause that's what he'd been looking for, an
excuse to run. But he finally made up an excuse, and a while
later as he brushed past a long dry weed and it tickled his
belly, he let out a squeal and went from there.

His long legs tangled and untangled themselves as he run, and he
was sure making speed.

Around and around he went and finally lined out straight away
from where his mammy was headed. She nickered for him and waited,
all patience. He turned after a spell and headed for his mammy
again the same as tho he'd run acrost another enemy at the other
end; and as he got close to his mammy he let out a buck, a
squeal, a snort, and stopped,--he was sure some little wild
horse.

It took a couple of hours for them two to make that mile to the
spring. The mother drank a lot of that good water, a few long
breaths and drank some more till the thirst was all gone. Smoky
came over and nosed at the pool, but he didn't take on any of the
fluid, it looked just like so much thin air to him, the same with
the tender green grass that was beginning to grow in bunches
everywhere; it was just growing for him to run on.

The rest of that day was pretty well used up around that one
spot; adventures of all kinds was numerous for Smoky, and when he
wasn't stretched out and asleep there was plenty of big stumps in
the cottonwood grove that could be depended on to give him the
scare he'd be looking for.

But there was other things and more threatening than stumps which
Smoky hadn't as yet spotted, like for instance,--a big cayote had
squatted and been watching him thru dead willow branches. He
wasn't at all interested in the action Smoky was putting into his
play, and only wished the colt's mammy would move away a little
further when he would then take a chance and try to get him
down,--colt meat was his favorite dish and he sure wasn't going
to let no chance slip by even if it took a whole day's waiting
for one to show itself.

A couple of chances had come his way but they was queered by
Smoky's mammy being too close, and he knowed better than show
himself and get run down by them hoofs of hers. Finally, and when
he seen his appetite wouldn't win anything by sticking around
that spot any longer, he took a last sniff and came out of his
hiding place. Keeping the willows between him and the horses, he
loped out till he was at a safe running distance and where he
could see all around him, and there he squatted again, in plain
sight this time. He hadn't quite made up his mind as yet whether
to go or stick around a while longer.--Just about then Smoky
spots him.

To him, the cayote was just another stump, but more interesting
than the others he'd kicked at, on account that this stump moved,
and that promised a lot of excitement. With a bowed neck and
kinked tail Smoky trotted up towards the cayote. The cayote just
set there and waited and when the colt got to within a few feet
from him, he started away and just fast enough so as the colt's
curiosity would make him follow. If he could only get the colt
over the ridge and out of his mammy's sight.

It all was only a lot of fun to Smoky, and besides he was bound
to find out what was that grey and yellow object that could move
and run and didn't at all look like his mammy. His instinct was
warning him steady as he went, but curiosity had the best of him,
and it wasn't till he was over the hill before his instinct got
above his curiosity and he seen that all wasn't well.

The cayote had turned and quicker than a flash made a jump for
Smoky's throat.--The generations of mustang blood that'd fought
the lobo and cougar, and which was the same blood that flowed in
Smoky's veins, is all that saved the colt. That inherited
instinct made him do the right thing at the right time, he
whirled quicker than lightning and let fly with both hind feet
with the result that the cayote's teeth just pinched the skin
under his jaws. But even at that, he wasn't going to get rid of
his enemy (it was a sure enough enemy this time) that easy, and
as he kicked he felt the weight of the cayote, and then a sharp
pain on his ham strings.

Smoky was scared, and he let out a squeal that sure made every
living thing in that neighborhood set up and wonder; it was a
plain and loud distress signal, and it was answered. His mammy
shot up the hill, took in the goings-on at a glance, and ears
back, teeth a shining, tore up the earth and lit into the battle
like a ton of dynamite.

The battle was over in a second, and with hunks of yellow fur a
flying all directions it wound up in a chase. The cayote was in
the lead and he stayed in the lead till a second hill took him
out of sight.

Smoky was glad to follow his mammy back to the spring and on to
the other side a ways. He didn't shy at the stumps he passed on
the way, and the twig that tickled his tummy didn't bring no
play. He was hungry and tired, and when the first was tended to
and his appetite called for no more he lost no time to picking
out a place to rest his weary bones. A thin stream of blood was
drying on one of his hind legs, but there was no pain, and when
the sun set and the shadow of his mammy spread out over him he
was sound asleep, and maybe dreaming of stumps, of stumps that
moved.

When the sun came up the next morning, Smoky was up too, and eyes
half closed was standing still as the big boulder next to him and
sunned himself. A stiff hind leg was a reminder of what happened
the day before, but the experience was forgotten far as dampening
his spirits was concerned, even the stiffness wouldn't hold him
back from whatever the new day would hold. He'd always remember
the cayote, and from then on never mistake him for a stump, but
that sure wasn't going to take any play out of him.

He was two days old now and strength had piled up fast, he felt
there was no trail too long for him and when the sun was a couple
of hours high that morning and his mother showed indications that
she wanted to drift he sure wasn't dragging along behind. The
stiffness gradually went out of his hind leg as he traveled, and
by the afternoon of that day he was again shying at everything
and sometimes even shying at nothing at all.

They kept a traveling and traveling, and it seemed like to Smoky
that the trail was getting pretty long after all. They skirted
the flat along the foot of the mountains, crossed one high ridge,
and many creeks, and still his mother was drifting on. She
wouldn't hardly even stop for him to nurse, and Smoky was getting
cranky, and tired.

The pace kept up till the sun was well on its way down, when it
slackened some and finally the mother went to grazing. A short
while later Smoky was layed out full length and dead to the
world.

Smoky didn't know and didn't care much just then, but his mammy
was headed back to her home range, where there was lots of horses
and other little colts for him to play with; and when late that
night she lined out again traveling steady he wasn't in any too
good a humor.

Finally it seemed like they'd got there, for his mammy after
watering at a creek went to grazing at the edge of some big
cottonwoods; she showed no indications of wanting to go any
further. Right there Smoky was willing to take advantage of the
chance and recuperate for all he was worth. The sun came up, but
Smoky was in the shade of the cottonwoods what was beginning to
leaf out. He slept on and a twitching ear once in long spells is
all that showed he was still alive.

That day never seen much of him; once in a while he'd get up and
nurse but right away after he'd disappear again and stretch out
flat on the warm earth.

He kept that up till way in the middle of the next night, and it
was well towards morning before he felt like he was all horse
again.

He come out of it in fine shape though, and he was stronger than
ever. His vision was taking more territory too, and he was
getting so he could see near half as far as his mammy could. She
was the first to see the bunch of range horses trailing in to
water early that morning. Smoky heard her nicker as she
recognized the bunch and it drawed a heap of interest as to what
she was nickering about, for he was right there alongside of her
and he couldn't see nothing for her to nicker at, but pretty soon
he could hear the horses as they trailed towards him. His ears
straightened towards the sound and a while later he could make
out the shapes of 'em. Smoky just kind of quivered at the sight
of so many that looked like his mammy. He was all interested, but
at the same time, and even tho his instinct told him that all was
well, he had no hankering to leave his mammy's side till he
knowed for sure just what was up.

The mother watched the bunch coming closer with ears pointed
straight ahead, but soon as some of the leaders discovered little
Smoky there was a commotion and they all begin crowding in to get
a look at and greet the newcomer, about which time the mother
layed her ears back. It was a warning that none of 'em come too
close.

Little Smoky's knees was a shaking under him at the sight of so
many of his kind; he leaned against his mammy half afraid, but
his head was up far as he could get it and facing 'em and showed
by the shine in his eyes that he liked the whole proceeding
mighty well at that. He rubbed nostrils with a strange gelding
which was braver than the rest and dared come close, and when
that gelding was nipped at by his mammy he had a mighty strong
hankering to help her along just for fun, and nip him himself.

The preliminary introduction took a good hour, and the mother
stood guard; not for fear that any of 'em would harm Smoky, but
she wanted it understood from the start that he was her little
colt and she had the say over him. It finally was understood, but
it took all that day and part of the next for the bunch to get
used in having the new little feller around and quit making a
fuss over him.

They was all jealous of one another and fought amongst themselves to be
the only one near him, and his mother, of course she'd declared herself
from the start, and it was took for granted from all around that her
place in Smoky's heart couldn't be considered, and all knowed better
than try and chase her away from him. Fillies and old mares, young
geldings and old ponies and all, had it out as to which was the most fit
to tag along and play with Smoky and keep a watchful eye over him along
with his mammy. All wanted the job, but a big buckskin saddle horse who
all the time had been the boss of the herd took it to hand to show them
that he would be the all around guardeen for Smoky, and second only to
his mammy. He delivered a few swift kicks, pounded on some ribs, left
teeth marks on shiny hides, and after taking one last look and making
sure that all was persuaded, grazed out towards Smoky who by his mammy
had watched the whole proceeding with a heap of interest.

There was three other little colts in the bunch besides Smoky,
and each time one of them little fellers came the buckskin horse
had to whip the bunch so as he'd have the say over the newest
one. Now Smoky was the newest one, and the buckskin horse had
first rights as an outsider once again. He was an old horse full
of scars showing where he'd had many a scrap; there was saddle
marks on his back and at one time he had been a mighty fine
cowhorse. Now he was pensioned; he'd more than earned a rest and
all he had to do for the rest of his life was to pick out good
feed grounds for the winter, shady places and tenderest green
grass for the summer, and his other interest in life was them
little colts that came in spring time.

Smoky's mother was young, at least ten years younger than the
buckskin horse, but the buckskin was like a colt compared to her
when it come to be playful. She had the responsibility of Smoky
and while she let him play with her, kick or bite at her, she
never played with him and once in a while if he'd get too rough
she'd let him know about it. She loved little Smoky with all her
heart and would of died for him any time, and her main interest
was to see that she kept in condition so that Smoky would never
be stunted by lacking of rich milk. She had no time for play.

And that's where the old buckskin came in. Him and Smoky was soon
acquainted, in a short while they was playing, Smoky would kick
at him while the big buckskin nipped him easy and careful along
the flank, then he'd run away from him, and the little colt had a
lot of fun chasing that big hunk of horseflesh all over the
country. The rest of the bunch would watch the two play and with
no effort to hide how jealous they felt.

Smoky's mother kept her eye on the buckskin, but never
interfered, she knowed, and it was only when Smoky came back to
her, tired and hungry, that she put her ears back and warned him
to keep away.

It took a few days before the buckskin would allow any of the
other horses to get near Smoky, and then he had no say about it
for he found that Smoky had his own ideas about things, and if he
wanted to mingle in with the other horses that was his business,
and all the buckskin could do then was to try and keep the other
horses away. That was quite a job, specially if Smoky wanted to
be with them. So the buckskin finally had to give it up and do
the best he could which was to see that none of 'em done him any
harm. But none of 'em had any intentions of doing the little colt
any harm, and as it was it looked like Smoky had 'em all
buffaloed. He'd tear in after some big horse like he was going to
eat him up and all that big horse would do was to scatter out
like the devil was after him.

Smoky was the boss and pet of the herd for a good two weeks and
then one day, here comes another little feller, a little bay colt
just two days old and trailing in alongside his mammy. Smoky was
left in the background and witnessed the same fuss and commotion
that was done over him that morning by the creek. The buckskin
horse once again fought his way in that new little feller's
heart, and right away he forgot Smoky.

But Smoky never seen anything wrong to that, he went on to
playing with every horse that would have him and it wasn't long
till he picked up with a young fillies and afterwards went to
mingling with other young colts.

From then on Smoky had more freedom, he could go out a ways
without having some big overgrowed horse tagging along, but he
never went far and if he did he always came back a heap faster
than when he started out. But them spring days was great for
Smoky; he found out a lot of things amongst which was, that grass
was good to eat, and water mighty fine to drink when the day was
hot. He seen cayotes again and the bigger he got the less he was
afraid of 'em till he finally went to chasing every one of 'em
he'd see.

Then one day he run acrost another yellow animal. That animal
didn't look dangerous, and what's more it was hard for Smoky to
make out just what it was, and he was bound to find out. He
followed that animal plum to the edge of some willows, and the
queer part of it was that animal didn't seem at all in a hurry to
get away, it was mumbling along and just taking its time and
Smoky was mighty tempted to plant one front foot right in the
middle of it and do some pawing, but as luck would have it he
didn't have the chance, it'd got in under some willows and all
that was sticking out was part of the animal's tail. Smoky took a
sniff at it without learning anything outside that it shook a
little. There didn't seem to be no danger, so the next sniff he
took was a little closer, and that done the trick. Smoky let out
a squeal and a snort as he felt his nostrils punctured in half a
dozen places with four-inch porcupine quills.

But Smoky was lucky, for if he'd been a couple of inches closer
there'd been quills rammed into his nose plum up to his eyes,
which would've caused a swelling in such size that he couldn't of
been able to eat and most likely starve to death. As it was there
was just a few of them quills in his nostrils, and compared to
the real dose he might of got, it was just a mild warning to him.
Another lesson.

It was a few days later when he met another strange animal, or
strange animals, for there was many of 'em. He didn't get much
interest out of them somehow, but while they was handy maybe it
was just as well for him to have a close look at one. Besides he
had nothing else to do, and his mammy wasn't far away.

His instinct had no warning to give as he strutted towards the
smallest one of the strangers which he'd picked to investigate.
He wasn't afraid of this animal and this animal didn't seem
afraid of him so Smoky kept a getting closer till one was within
a couple of feet of the other. Both Smoky and this stranger was
young, and mighty inquisitive, and neither as yet knowed that
they'd sure be seeing plenty of each other's kind as they get
older, that they'll be meeting thru the round-ups at the
"cutting-grounds," on "day-herd" and on "night-guard," on the
long, hot, and dusty trails. A cowboy will be riding Smoky then
and keeping a whole herd on the move, a whole herd of the kind
that little Smoky was so busy investigating that day. They'll be
full grown then, and there'll be other young ones to take the
place of them that's trailed in to the shipping point.

But Smoky wasn't as yet worried or even thought on what was to
come, neither was the little whitefaced calf he was exchanging
squints with; and when the critter called her long-eared,
split-hoofed baby to her side, Smoky just kicked up his heels,
put his head down, and bucked and crowhopped all the way to where
his mammy and the rest of the bunch was grazing.



CHAPTER II

SMOKY MEETS THE HUMAN


The long Spring days followed by the warmer days of middle
summer had took away all signs of snow excepting where the peaks
was highest and the canyons deep and narrow. Up there was crusted
hunks still holding out against the sun and hugging the shady
sides of rocky ledges, and leaving out moisture that kept the
springs and creeks running to the flats below.

The grass was greener up there, the flies wasn't so bad, and
besides there was always a breeze and sometimes a wind which made
things mighty cooling, specially in the shade of the twisted
pines scattered over the country where Smoky, his mammy, and the
bunch was ranging.

That high, rocky, and rough territory had a lot to do in the
makings of Smoky. Playing down the steep ridges, where shale rock
made the footing slippery and mighty uncertain, had took all the
wobble and shake out of his legs. They fit to his body more and
rounded up in size, so as they looked like they really belonged
to him. His hoofs had long ago lost their pink soft shell and
turned to steel grey and were near as hard and tough as steel
itself; and the way he'd buck and play down a rocky canyon and
jump over down timber, may not of compared with a mountain goat
for sureness, but he more than made up for that in speed and
recklessness, and somehow he'd always hit the bottom right side
up.

It was in one of them wild scrambles down a mountain side one day
that Smoky near run into a cinnamon cub which had been curled up
and sleeping on top of a big stump. Smoky stood in his tracks for
a second, and in that second the cub fell off the stump with a
snarl and lit a running on the other side.

The action of the cub is what decided Smoky whether to stand
still, turn back and high-tail it, or follow and investigate; but
his curiosity was still with him, and bowing his neck he paced
high and mighty on the trail of the hairy puzzle.

Over dead timber he went, sailed acrost washes, and ducked under
branches. He was gaining and would of kept the chase up for quite
a spell, only, and just when things was getting real interesting,
there was a crash, and to his right a dust and a commotion which
sounded like a landslide. In half a second more, a big round
brown head showed itself thru a tangle of broken limbs and
underbrush, Smoky got a glimpse of two small eyes afire, long
white teeth a gleaming, and when all the sudden apparition was
backed by a roar that near shook the mountains, Smoky left. He
tore a hole in the earth as he turned tail, and he wasn't pacing
high and mighty as he made distance and raced back towards his
mammy and safety.

His heart was thumping fit to bust as he cleared the timber and
got out in open country, and for the life of him he couldn't
figger out how that little bunch of fur he'd been chasing could
turn out into such a scenery-tearing cyclone as what he'd got a
glimpse of. He'd never reckoned the little cub had a mammy too.
But Smoky was learning fast, and along with his own experiences
he learned from his mother just what was what in the timber and
on the flats;--like another time on the foothills, his mammy was
in the lead and him following close behind on a hot dusty trail
towards a shady spot. Of a sudden there was a rattling sound, and
just as sudden his mammy left the trail as though she'd been
shot. Instinct made Smoky do the same and none too soon, for on
the left just a foot or so off the trail was a wriggling thing
that'd just struck, and missed to reach his ankle by an inch.

Smoky stood off at a safe distance and snorted at it as it coiled
up ready. Somehow he had no hankering to go stick his nose
nowhere near or take a sniff at the grey and dirty yellow colored
rattler, and when his mammy nickered for him to follow there was
a warning in her nicker; he took another look at the snake. He'd
remember, and do the same as his mother had done whenever the
rattling sound would be heard again.

Taking in all, Smoky was getting mighty wise along with being
mighty lucky in getting that wisdom. Scratches is about all he
ever packed out of any scramble, and scratches didn't count with
him. His hide was getting tough and the blood that flowed in his
veins wasn't from a heart that'd peter out very easy.

The little horse was having a great time up in that high country,
and if he'd seen more of life, he'd most likely wondered how long
it all was going to last. It would of struck him as too good to
last much longer, but as it was, Smoky took in all that life
could give and enjoyed it to the limit. He never passed anything
which had him wondering for fear of missing something. If a limb
cracked anywheres within hearing distance he'd perk his ears
towards the sound and seldom would go on till he found out just
why that limb cracked that way. He'd follow and pester the badger
till it'd hunt a hole; he'd circle around a tree and watch the
bushy tailed squirrel as it'd climb up out of his reach. Skunks
had crossed his trail too, but somehow, the atmosphere around 'em
would sort of dampen his curiosity and he always kept his
distance.

Smoky had met and had experiences with all the range country's
wild animals excepting the lion and the wolf. His mammy kept
clear of the territory where them outlaws ranged, and if by scent
the bunch suspicioned them two as neighbors, they'd drift, or
else keep on the lookout till the others had drifted. Smoky met
them too and had scrambles with 'em, but that came later in his
life, and it's a good thing it was later, for I most likely
wouldn't be telling about Smoky now.

The first big event of Smoky's life came when he was four months
old. There was nothing to tell him anything would happen, no dark
skies nor ill winds to threaten or warn, and as it was, the
little feller was just in the steady motion of keeping one end of
himself clear of the few flies that was around. That short tail
of his was working like a pendulum, he was standing up and
asleep, the breeze blowed thru his mane, and that same breeze
made a sort of lullaby as it passed thru the branches of the big
pine that shaded him and his mammy.

His mammy was asleep too, and so was the rest of the bunch, and
when the cowboy that was riding up the canyon spotted 'em he
knowed he could get above 'em and be where he could start 'em
down before any of the bunch would see him.

It was a mighty good thing he done that, for soon as one of the
bunch got wind of him and raised a head, there was a snort, they
came to life and was on the run in a split second. Down the side
of the canyon they went, a cloud of dust and the cowboy
following.

Smoky was right with the bunch from the start. He stampeded with
the leader, and once in his life it never came to him to wonder
what it was all about; he just run and plum forgot to investigate.

Tails was a popping as the horses slid off the mountain, jumped
off ledges and sailed acrost wash-outs. Loosened rocks bumped
against boulders, boulders crashed into dead hanging timber, and
petty soon a landslide brought up the rear; but even that was too
slow. The ponies and the cowboy behind 'em hit the bottom of the
canyon first, and when the slide reached that spot and filled the
canyon with ten feet of boulders, timber, and dirt, the whole
wild bunch was half a mile away and kicking up dust on the
foothills at the edge of the flat.

It was away out on the flat and where the dust wasn't so thick
that Smoky took a back slant over his withers and got his first
sight of the human. The way his mammy and the rest of the bunch
acted, the way they run and tried to dodge or leave that human
behind, sure put the impression in Smoky's mind that here was a
different kind of animal, the kind that no horse would stop to
fight or argue with but instead run away from, if it was
possible.

But it didn't seem possible, for the rider was still right on
their tails, and stayed there till he drove 'em into the long
wings of big log corrals, which to Smoky seemed like trees
growing sideways instead of up and down. But the little horse
knowed that there was no going thru them trees. He stuck close as
he could to his mammy's side. She and the bunch milled around for
a spell around the big pen, the big gate closed on 'em, and wild
eyed, the bunch turned and faced a bow legged, leather covered,
sunburnt human.

Smoky shivered as he watched that strange crethure get off one of
his kin, a horse just like any of the bunch him and his mammy was
running with, all excepting for that funny hunk of leather on his
back. Pretty soon the human fumbled around a while and then that
hunk of leather was pulled off, the horse was turned loose, shook
himself, and walked towards Smoky and the bunch.

The colt was stary-eyed and never missed a thing; and soon as the
loose horse came his way he took a sniff at his sweaty hide for
some kind of a clue as to just what had been setting on him all
thru that long run. The sniff left him more puzzled than ever,
and forgetting the horse he put all his attention on the crethure
which was standing up and on two legs.

There'd been a lot of lightning up in the mountains where Smoky
had been ranging that summer; he'd seen some fires up there too.
That lightning and them fires was great puzzles to the colt, and
when he seen the human make a swift move with a paw, and then
seen a fire in one of them paws, and later on, smoke coming out
of the mouth, it all made things more than ever impossible for
him to figger out. He stood petrified, and watched.

Pretty soon, them same paws that'd held the fire, reached down
and picked up a coil of rope, a loop was made, and then the human
walked towards him and the bunch. At that move the bunch tore
around the corral and raised the dust; then Smoky heard the hiss
of a rope as it sailed over past him and the loop settled on one
of the ponies' heads. The pony was stopped and led out to the
hunk of leather on the ground; it was cinched on him the same as
it'd been on the other horse, and when the human climbed on is
when Smoky first set eyes on one of his kind in a fight with the
two-legged crethure.

It was a great sight to the colt. He'd seen some of his bunch
play and kick often, and he'd done a lot of that himself, but
he'd never seen any get in the position and tear things up the
way that pony was doing. He knowed that pony was fighting,
bucking for all he was worth, and doing his daggonedest to shed
that sticking and ill built wonder that was on top of him. Smoky
watched and shook when he heard the pony beller. He'd never heard
one of his kind make that noise before, and he knowed without
wondering just what the beller meant. He remembered doing near
the same that time when the cayote had nipped him in the ham
strings.

Smoky's eyes was blazing as he watched on thru the fight, and the
pony's hard jumps dwindled down to crowhops and then a stop. He
watched the man as he got off the horse, opened the gate, lead
the horse out and after closing it, watched him ride on and out
of sight. It wasn't till then that he came back to himself and it
come to his mind to investigate the kind of place it was that
cooped him in. He rubbed noses with his mammy and went to
scouting around the big corral. Long strands of mane which had
caught in slivers of the logs told him there'd been lots of
horses here before; sniffs at the ground and more sniffs at
pieces of calves' ears that'd been cut while earmarking reminded
him of the critter he'd seen while he was only a couple of weeks
old. Many calves had been branded in the big corral, and with all
them signs which was plain enough reading to Smoky it only made
him all the more suspicious and spooky.

He was trying to get up enough nerve to go near and take a sniff
at a pair of chaps hanging on the corral gate, when he noticed a
dust, and under it a band of horses being hazed towards the
corral he was in. With that band was a half dozen riders or more,
and the sight of them made Smoky hightail to his mammy's side in
a hurry. Once there, he took in all that could be seen and
watched the riders drive the horses thru the gate and turn 'em in
with his bunch. There was a lot of dust, milling around, and
confusion, for there was now near two hundred head of horses in
the one big corral; but to Smoky all that company was mighty
welcome, they meant more protection, he could hide better in that
big bunch and be able to always keep some of the horses between
him and them two-legged crethures.

He kept hid as well as he could while the bunch milled around the
corral, and in a short while, as he watched thru the horses'
legs, he seen where on the outside and close to the pen a fire
was started, long bars of iron was passed thru between the logs
and one end of 'em sticking in the hot blaze. Then, pretty soon a
commotion was stirred, and the bunch went to racing around the
corral and snorting. Many was cut out into another corral, till
there was only about fifty left, mostly young colts about Smoky's
age, and a few quiet old mares.

Smoky had no chance to hide, and as he seen the bow-legged humans
uncoil long ropes and heard the loops whiz past him at the speed
of a bullet, terror struck in his heart and he was ready to leave
the earth. He heard some of the colts squeal as they was snared,
throwed, and tied down, and that sure didn't help to ease the
fear that'd took hold of him.

He was doing his best and keeping as far out of reach could but
it seemed like them crethures was everywhere, and no place where
them long ropes couldn't reach. It was during one of his wild
scrambles for a get away that Smoky heard the close hiss of a
rope, and like a snake coiled itself around both his front legs,
he let out a squeal, and in another second he was flat to the
ground and four feet tied up.

Smoky figgered the end of the world had come as he felt the human
touch him, and if it'd been in his blood to faint away, he'd a
done it easy; but as it was he never missed a thing. He seen one
of the crethures run towards him with a hot iron, smelled burning
hair and hide--it was his own that burned, but it felt cool and
there was no pain, for he was at the stage where the searing iron
was no worse than a touch from the human hand. But there's an end
to all, whether it's good or bad, and pretty soon, Smoky felt the
ropes come off his legs, a boost to let him know that all was
over, and when he stood up and run back to the bunch, there was a
mark on his slick hide that was there for life,--as the brand
read, the little horse belonged to the Rocking R outfit.

It was all a mighty great relief to Smoky and the other colts
when the branding come to an end, the bunch all put back
together, and when the colts found their mammies all was turned
out and free again, free to go back to the high mountain range,
or run on the flats.

Smoky's mammy took the lead, and after the rest of the bunch was
thru parleying with the strange horses, they joined in with her
and the colt and all strung out for the foothills. The next day
they all was up in high country again and everything of the day
before was forgotten, forgotten, all excepting with Smoky and the
other little colts. They still remembered some, on account that
it had all been mighty new to 'em, and besides, the sting of the
fresh brand was there on their left thigh to remind.

But as the days went by, and new things happened right along to
draw Smoky's interest in life, the happenings at the corral was
gradually left behind like a bad dream; the burn healed quick and
left a neat brand all of which growed right with him.

Fall came, skies clouded and the rains was getting cold, and each
time it cleared up again it was a little colder, the sun wasn't
making as high a circle and was steady losing some of its heat,
and when after a few mornings' frost the skies clouded again and
the wind blowed a light snow over the high pinnacles, the bunch
gradually ranged lower and lower, till, when they reached the
foothills and finally the flats, the first of the winter had set
in and it was time for 'em to drift to their winter range.

Their winter range was low ridges and benches that raised up in
the middle of the prairie. There was steep ravines where willows
and cottonwoods growed in big patches, the shelter of them was
mighty fine when the cold north winds blowed and the howling
blizzard made every living thing hunt a hole. Tall grass was
there too, and could always be reached by pawing for it. In quiet
winter days, when the sun came out and the wind went down, the
bunch could always leave their shelter and find places on the
ridges where the winds had swept the snow away, and where the
grass was in plain sight.

Drifting acrost that flat open country and investigating that new
winter territory had kept Smoky's eyes, ears, and nostrils mighty
busy. There'd been a lot to keep him looking, listening, and
sniffing. Every buffalo wallow, coulee, and rise had kept his
senses on hair trigger edge, and when the first snow had come,
he'd enjoy that too. It made him want to buck and play as it fell
on his withers and rump, and along with the cold weather that'd
turned the range brown and then white, he was finding more
ambition to keep on the jump. He wasn't looking for shade no
more.

If Smoky minded the cold he sure didn't show it, and if you could
of felt his warm hide and seen how thick the hair had growed on
it, and how long, you'd never wondered why it was that the cold
raw winds never fazed him. Mother Nature had seen to that and
brought on the winter gradual, till, when the time come for it to
set in, Smoky was well prepared. He was packing a natural fur
coat on a good thick hide, and with an inch of tallow for a
lining, and along with the rich, thick blood which he kept in
good circulation he was mighty able to compete with the snows and
freezing weather, and was never found to hunt shelter till the
blizzard blowed over the ridges from the north.

He pawed snow for his feed that winter, for it had been quite a
few months before when he found that his mammy's milk wasn't
quite enough, and later turned out to be just a taste, and
finally, she give him to understand that he was weaned. There was
no arguing with her, and Smoky knowed better than try, so he
pawed and hunted for grass like a big horse. He et snow and could
stay away from water as long as any of the bunch, and even tho he
lost some of his roundness thru the worst of the winter, you
couldn't of noticed it on account of his hair being so long.

Being that Smoky was still quite a privileged character it helped
him considerable thru them long winter months, if he'd see some
big horse dig down into a special good grassy spot; he'd take
advantage of his standing and chase the big horse away. He looked
mighty wicked as he put his ears down, showed his teeth, and
delivered a side kick, and the big horse would act scared to
death, and get away from the dangerous Smoky in a hurry. There
was only one in the bunch that wouldn't scare worth a bit, and
that was his mammy. He could paw in the same hole with her and
maybe steal a bunch of grass right from under her nose, but there
was no chasing her away. Most likely there was no such intentions
in Smoky's mind anyhow, for the little horse did think an awful
lot of that mammy of his; and even tho she never played with him,
and even nipped him for some things he'd do, he knowed if a
showdown ever come she'd fight to a finish for him.

So, as the snows piled high and the ravines filled with drifts,
Smoky went on and passed the hard of the winter in near the same
carefree reckless way he'd passed the summer before. Of course,
pawing for his feed the way he had to was taking some of his
energy, but he'd manage to reserve some for play, and many is the
time when you'd see the bunch a pawing all intent to reaching the
grass, you'd see Smoky tearing up clouds of light snow and a
playing for all he was worth. Other colts would join him, and
pretty soon the young ones would have the white scenery all
tracked the same as if a thousand head of horses had stampeded
thru.

The winter wore on that way, no events came to shake the quiet
and peace of that part of the range, only, one day a rider had
showed up against the skyline. Smoky had been the only one to see
him on account he was a little ways from the bunch and where he
could see around a point. With the sight of that rider Smoky
remembered ropes, a corral and human hands; and he sashayed back
to the bunch fast as his legs could carry him.

Finally, the first sign of spring came. Smoky couldn't
appreciate it very much on account that the warm winds which was
starting the snow to melting only left him weak and lazy. His
blood hadn't started to thin down as yet, and for the first short
spell in his life, he had no hankering to crowhop around and
play.

Then a few weeks later the bare earth begin to show in big spots
and on the sunny side of the buttes green grass begin to shoot
up. That new green grass tasted mighty good to Smoky; it tasted
so good that the dry feed he'd wintered on and which could now be
got without pawing for, was only stepped on in hunting for them
first blades of green. Nothing but that would do, and as it was
still scarce and hard to find that early in the year, he covered
a lot of territory and got very little feed.

But the rest of the bunch was afflicted the same way; the long
dry grass wasn't good enough no more, and consequences is the
bunch lost some weight. But Mother Nature was on hand there
again; she knowed that's what the bunch needed to condition 'em
for the change of season, and sure enough, pretty soon the warm
weather didn't leave 'em so drowsy no more, and as the grass kept
a growing, and finally got to be everywhere, on the ridges as on
the flats, the bunch perked up again; the long winter hair was
loosening and big hunks of it was left wherever they rolled.

Smoky's winter coat had faded to a brown at the first sign of
spring, and now that the warmer weather had come and green grass
was a plenty, there was another color showed where he'd shed off
the long hair. It was what we call "mouse color" only maybe
darker; no more of the slick black hair that decorated his hide
the summer before could be seen, the change of color had showed
itself around his ears and flanks but it wasn't till winter came
that the real change had took place and turned him to a grayish
mouse color.

His head and legs was a little darker than his body and showed
brown, and with that little blaze face of his a looming up, he
made a mighty pretty picture, a picture of the kind once you see
you never forget; for Smoky was perfect any way you looked at him
and it seemed like as you sized him up that the other of his kind
hadn't been played square with and some of their good points
stole away so as Smoky would be the perfect little horse.

Smoky had never thought of his good looks and strong body, his
good looks was only a sign of his good health. He felt it all and
used it to the limit for his own benefit and for whatever fun his
strength and energy could afford him. That never lacked, and if
he layed down it was seldom because he was tired, it was more
thru a hint from Mother Nature for him to hold on a while and
store up on life and more strength.

The spring rains came and went, and each time after each spell of
moisture the grass was a little taller and the country greener,
the sun kept a getting warmer too, and some days was already hot.

It was during one of these hot days that Smoky's mother
disappeared. Smoky had been snoozing in the shade of a creek bank
and it wasn't till quite a while after he got up and started
grazing that he noticed she was gone. The bunch had been drifting
back for the summer range and was at the foothills of the big
range, the big flat below was an easy place to spot any moving
object on, but Smoky couldn't find hide nor hair of that mammy of
his. He trotted around the bunch and, nickering, investigated for
a spell. She couldn't be found.

He took another look at the country around, and nickering in kind
of wonder, he went to grazing again. Somehow he wasn't fidgety as
he should of been, maybe he had a hunch that her dissapearing
that way was necessary and that all was hunkydory. Anyway Smoky
never missed any sleep, or feed, or play while she was gone;
things went on just the same, and the little horse's hide was
getting slicker every day.

A few days passed, and then one morning the big buckskin horse
that was still in the bunch perked up his ears, nickered, and
loped out towards the flat. A horse was out there and coming
towards the bunch, alongside the horse was a little moving
object.

Smoky and the bunch stood in their tracks and watched. Pretty
soon Smoky noticed something familiar in that lone horse coming
towards him, but that little object a tagging along puzzled him,
and head up, he trotted out a ways to investigate. Then it all
came to him, for the lone horse was none other than his mammy.

He lit out on a run a nickering as he went till he got to within
a few feet of her, and then he got a slant at the object a
tagging alongside, a brand new little wobblety legged colt it
was, shining black, and awful timid at the sight of so many
strangers. It was Smoky's new little brother.

Smoky couldn't keep his nose off the baby, and his mammy had to
cock one ear back at him the same as to say "careful, Son"; but
Smoky was careful, and as his mammy went on to join the bunch, he
followed and the big buckskin brought up the rear. From then on
Smoky ranked second.



CHAPTER III

WHERE THE TRAILS FORK


Middle summer had come, the day was hot and still; even up
amongst the high peaks and where the snow was making a last stand
the heat was strong, for the sun was shooting straight down and
the crags could give no more shade. Up on a rocky trail of that
country a small bunch of range horses was drifting one behind the
other and following the leader,--the leader was Smoky's mammy,
the new little black colt right at her heels and next the blaze
faced, mouse colored, yearling, Smoky. A little further back was
a big buckskin horse and there followed eight or ten others which
made up the rest of the bunch.

They all trailed along seemed like headed for nowheres in
particular. They passed under wind-twisted trees and right on
thru the shade they'd give. Cool streams wasn t even sniffed at,
and the long stems of grass that was everywhere wasn t at all
noticed; they was all just drifting and maybe only hitting out
for another special good part of the high range.--A feller
watching 'em would of figgered that something or other had
started 'em on the move, maybe a rider had been spotted that
morning which had kettled 'em into a run, or else cougars might
of been too numerous for comfort.

The little bunch kept a trailing along till they came to where
the trail branched and the leader took the lower one. The little
black colt and all the rest followed, all excepting the mouse
color yearling. The upper trail had drawed that one's interest,
and nothing would do but what he had to investigate it for a
ways. He kept his nose on the ground as he went and sniffed for
clues of anything that might be of interest to him, he could see
the bunch below and he figgered on cutting across to 'em soon as
his curiosity was satisfied.

Ahead of him a ways and above the trail was a big granite boulder
a good ten feet high. A scrub mahogany had found root in a crack
of the big rock and was spreading its branches well over it and
making a good shade. In that shade and mighty hard to notice, was
an object, a long, flat, dark buckskin object, which looked a lot
like part of the rock. It was stretched out full length and
seemed like without life only maybe for the tip of its long,
round tail which was jerking up and down. The round head raised
an inch at the sound of hoofs on the rocky trail, the ears
flattened and the yellow eyes turned jet black at the sight of
Smoky, the mouse colored yearling.

Smoky was coming right on the trail and would pass to within a
couple of feet of the big rock that was the mountain lion s game
hunting perch, many a deer he'd pounced onto and killed from that
perch; and not far away from that spot was bones scattered around
which showed where he d drug his victims and et his fill. Wolves,
cayotes, and other varmints had cleaned up what the big lion
would leave and the result was white bones a shining to the sun.

The lion had a big territory which he claimed as his, but in all
that rough country there was no better place than the one he was
now getting ready to spring from. He d got meat from that spot
when he failed at others, and the trail he overlooked was tracked
with many hoofs, hoofs of all the kind that ranged up there,--it
was a main trail to a main pass.

Why Smoky s mother didn t take that trail can t be explained
much; may be it was instinct that warned her, and then again she
might of got a glimpse of the tall rock and past experience made
her turn to the left, but anyway she and her young colt and the
rest of the bunch was safe and had left Smoky till he was thru
investigating and ready to catch up with 'em.

Smoky kept on a coming and edging closer to the rock; he nosed
every twig and stone along the trail till he got to within a few
feet of the spot where the lion would spring. The lion wasn t a
stretched out shadow no more. He still looked like part of the
rock and fitted pretty well with the stump of the scrub mahogany,
but he was in a position that sure tallied up with all what was
about to happen. He was ready, and still as the rock he was on,
and the quiver of his long tail was a plenty to show that his
wiry frame and brain was sure together and intent on one thing.

Another foot ahead and Smoky would be seeing his last of
daylight. The colt had one leg raised to make that last step when
there s a rattling buzz comes from the foot of the rock; a four
foot rattlesnake stretched out and reaches for Smoky s nose and
that one leg which was raised to go forward went back instead. It
was all that saved him.

The lion had figgered on his victim a jumping to one side at his
leap, and he d allowed for that, but the way it happened this
time was that the snake caused Smoky to jump away just as he d
started which was a little too soon according to the lion's
figgering, and what s more Smoky went to the wrong direction
about a foot with the result that he just got his claws full of
Smoky's mane and no more.

He scrambled in mid air and done his best to get a hold in
Smoky s neck but even with all the action he put in his trying he
struck mostly air, and then hard ground.

Smoky never waited to see if that flying shadow of sharp claws
was after him or not; he d started at the sound of the rattler
and had kept a moving mighty fast ever since. A few feet of drop
in the scenery only helped him make more speed and the short cut
from the trail he d left to the trail his mammy and the bunch was
on was covered in no time.

He lit in the bunch a running, and the bunch getting a hint from
his wild eyed actions that all wasn t well started a running too
and for a ways they all went as tho the devil was after 'em.

But the devil (if that ain t too mild a name for the lion) wasn t
after 'em. He knowed the colt had too much speed for him and
never even thought of following him, and as it was he was just a
lashing himself with his long tail and mad clear thru at the
thought of missing such a nice fat yearling colt as Smoky was.

From that day on Smoky dodged high rocks unless he could see the
top of 'em; pine trees with stout lower limbs had him a circling
too, or any other place where a lion could perch on and spring
from. The little horse was gradually getting so he was satisfied
to be more with the bunch and not do so much investigating;
besides he d got first hand acquaintance with most all that
prowled the range, and everything in general was getting to be
less of a puzzle to him.

It all kept a getting to be less of a puzzle to him till finally
there come a time when Smoky got so he thought he knowed it all.
He figgered he had the world by the tail and with a downhill
push. Like all the other colts of his age he was just where
conceit had the best of him; he got strong headed and full of
mischief, and then s when the older horses figgered him to be a
regular pest and began knocking on him.

He was getting to be of size that could stand knocks too. They
all took turns at him and pounded on his ribs every chance they
had thru the rest of that summer, and tried to set him where he
belonged; but it was slow work and Smoky was still getting away
with some of the bluffs when the first snows came. He was ornery
all that winter, and even tho none of the horses would let him
steal the grass they pawed up, he aggravated 'em a lot by making
'em think he would; and when they d kick at him, and miss, there
was some more about his actions that sure let 'em know he was
getting away with something.

Then one day a strange horse showed up on the skyline and joined
the bunch. A strange horse is always sort of timid when first
joining a new bunch that way; and Smoky took advantage of that to
show there was at least one he had buffaloed,--he run the
stranger around and around and kept a nipping him on the rump
till the old pony was on the point of leaving and hunt new
territory. That sport lasted off and on for a few days, and then
one day the older horse turned and lit into Smoky. There was no
battle, for Smoky was just running a bluff; and at the first turn
of the events he evaporated and kept on evaporating till the
stranger got cooled down a bit. After that Smoky kept his
distance and acted willing to let the stranger stay with the
bunch.

The winter wore on that way, and as Smoky was met hard at every
ornery thing he d do, it all got to finally leave an impression
on him, and he gradually lost _some_ of his conceit and hard
headedness. But Spring came, other seasons and all kinds of
weather followed, and it wasn t till Smoky was a three year old
that he really come anywheres near to living up to good range
horse etiquette. There was so much life wrapped up in that pony s
hide that it was mighty hard for him to settle down and behave,
and even as a three year old he sometimes had to bust out and do
things that wasn t at all proper and which made the old horses
set their ears back and show their teeth.

The start of Smoky s third year was all to his favor,--the spring
rains was warmer than on average, the green grass shot up half an
inch to the day, and more than met up with the hard to satisfy
appetite which was his. Consequences is, when he shed off his
long winter coat he was slicker and rounder than ever and looked
like he was wrapped up in fine mouse colored silk. His blazed
face loomed up snow white and to match his trim ankles. He was a
picture to make any cowboy miss a few heart beats as he sometimes
raced acrost the prairie sod and with head and tail up showed off
the qualities that stuck out at his every move.

But to the bunch, all them qualities and good points of Smoky s
was lost and not at all noticed. His mammy or any of the others
would of thought just as much of him if he was just an ordinary
horse or even an ill built scrub. They d all liked him better if
he wasn t so ornery and didn t need so much convincing, for Smoky
was getting to be of a size and temper along with it where it was
mighty hard for some to try to eddicate him and _show_ that they
could.

His eddication kept on tho for there was still a few that packed
a convincing hoof, but them few was dwindling down fast and Smoky
was steady getting where he could hold his own with most any of
'em, till finally, and after many showdowns, there came a time
when there was only two left in the bunch that he wouldn t stop
and argue with, them two was his mammy and the big buckskin.

Smoky felt some superior and mighty proud then for a while; and
it s a good thing he was a little wiser and quieter and not so
full of mischief no more or he d sure dealt them ponies misery;
as it was he was now willing to leave them alone if they d do the
same by him.

Things went on that way for some time and as the days went by,
the bunch was getting to be more willing to accept Smoky as a
full size range horse with brains according. None tried to
eddicate him no more, and if once in a while he showed young
blood and some foolishness, they was all careful to overlook it.
Of course Smoky was wise enough to keep away from his mammy and
the buckskin at them times.

Peace was with the little bunch; all had some understanding and
every horse knowed his ground. It was all so peaceful that Smoky
felt it and it all begin to wear on him to the point where he
felt like tackling the big buckskin, just to start something--
then relief came one day and scattered that peaceful monotony
from hell to breakfast.

It all happened as the little bunch, strung out, was heading for
water. Smoky s mammy was in the lead as usual, and she was the
first to turn the point of a ridge and find herself to within a
few yards of a big black stud. Smoky was close second on the
sight, and somehow as he snorted at the longmaned thick-jawed
black a hunch came to him that peace had come to a sudden end.

He stood in his tracks kinda doubtful as to what to do and
watched the black cloud of horseflesh, he d let the stallion make
the first false move--Proud as a peacock came the black, mane
and tail a waving and stepping high. His little bunch of mares
and colts had stayed back at the first sight of the strange ones,
and was now watching the proceedings of the meeting.

That meeting impressed the young horses a whole lot, the white of
their eyes showed with interest as the stud came up to within a
few paces of the new bunch, stopped, and with a powerful neck
bowed to a half circle, ears pointed ahead, and eyes a shining,
stood and sized up the strangers.

He d had plenty of experience in meeting strange bunches that way
before which all left him kinda cautious, for many a time he d
left quicker than he d come, and lost some hide to an older stud
what was more up to the game of fighting; and he soon learned
that it wasn t a wise idea to ram into a strange bunch and go to
appropriating mares without first investigating what kind of a
leader that bunch had.

He d got wised up in many ways thru them meetings, and he learned
to be some careful. He d also learned to handle his hoofs and
teeth till there hadn t been any stud on that range that d been
able to whip him the last three years--he d evened up scores.

Smoky hadn t moved, and as the stud still kept a standing in one
spot with no indication of wanting to start anything, he got
restless. Pretty soon it came to his mind that the stallion was
leary of starting anything. It was a big mistake, but Smoky d had
no way of knowing better. The big buckskin did know better and if
Smoky had noticed, he d seen him out there on the far side of the
bunch, and willing to keep neutral.

A move from the black stud decided Smoky. He d stepped close to
his mammy and nostril to nostril was exchanging sniffs with her
when she let out a squeal and struck at him, all of which the
stallion didn t pay any attention to. But right about then Smoky
landed on him, or, _at_ him, for his striking front feet and
bared sharp teeth missed him, missed him just enough to be a
clean miss.

Smoky had never reckoned with the fighting qualities of a
stallion, and he couldn t figger out how it was he d struck just
thin air when he was so sure his enemy had been right there in
front of him and within easy reaching distance; and what s more
that puzzled him was that the stallion never offered to show
fight when he landed at him so furious. Instead he d just got out
of the way of his rush, kept his ears ahead, and went on sizing
up the bunch the same as if nothing had happened. Smoky felt like
he hadn t even been noticed, and the actions of the stud had said
plainer than words "fool kid."

A swift kick in the ribs couldn t of done any better towards
putting Smoky down a peg or two, and that simple quick move of
the stud s went a long ways to show what could of happened if
he d been in mind to fight. All that left Smoky kinda uncertain
as to how to proceed. He didn t know whether to go back and try
it again or let things rest for a spell till another chance
showed up.

In the meantime the black stud had found out that there was none
in that bunch he d need to watch, and head down to the ground,
ears back, he started cutting out the geldings, keeping the mares
and fillies to put in with the bunch he already had. That was a
harder job than it might sound here, for none of the geldings
wanted to be cut out of the bunch they d been with so long, and
even tho they went out easy enough they d turn back as the stud
would be cutting out another and would have to be headed off and
cut out again and again.

Then the big buckskin which had been neutral all this time
finally got riled up at being separated from the mares that way
and when the stud headed for him he stood his ground. A few
seconds more and there was buckskin and black hair a sailing in
the air, then hoofs a pounding away which would of kept up with
machine-gun fire for speed, only the pounding wasn t sounding so
sharp; it was hitting something solid, and there wasn t many
misses.

Finally out of the dust that was stirred there came a streak of
buckskin and right close to it was a streak of black, away from
the herd they went, and pretty soon the black stud came back
shaking his head the same as to let every horse know that he
wasn t going to stand for no foolishness.

There was one more to be put out of the bunch, he was that mouse
colored gelding, Smoky. He d got in while the stud was chasing
away the buckskin, he d stood alongside his mammy and watched the
fight, and there was a light in his eyes that showed he was ready
to start another battle if it was necessary, but he sure wasn t
going to be put out, without he was convinced it could be done,--
he wasn t built that way.

The stallion spots him there and never went thru no preliminaries
nor tried to scare him out with just a look; he dived right into
him and Smoky met him half ways. That battle was short and wicked
and Smoky managed to land some good hard kicks, kicks that d
knocked the wind out of any ordinary horse and sent 'em a
sprawling; but the stallion wasn t no ordinary horse and them
kicks only shook him a little and made him all the madder. He d
fought too many hard battles to let any gelding faze him and
besides he was in the habit of winning.

His chance came when Smoky turned to land a couple more hard
ones. The stud was broadside to the gelding, and as the hard ones
came, he just reared up out of the reach of 'em, made a big lunge
to one side and coming down he made a quick grab and fastened his
teeth in Smoky s withers. When Smoky pulled away and the stud s
teeth snapped together there was some of his silky hide between
'em.

Smoky squealed and kicked some more, then he whirled and faced
the stud figgering on doing some damage with teeth and front
hoofs. Just about then the stud whirled too and planted his two
hind hoofs smack bang into Smoky s ribs. There was an echo which
sounded like a steam engine ramming into a stone wall. That echo
was followed with a mighty grunt as Smoky was lifted off his feet
and throwed out a ways to a staggering standstill.

Smoky was in a daze, his vision was dim, and maybe it was all
instinct that warned him of the dark cloud that d turned and was
now a tearing down on him. Anyway something made him move in a
hurry; all the strength that was left in him was used to make
distance away from the black devil which now looked to Smoky like
a big centipede, it had so many legs.

His life depended in the speed he could make, and Smoky was
running, running like he d never run before. It seemed like there
was no shaking the mad stud, and just when he was on the point of
giving in and make a last stand for his life that destroying hunk
of horseflesh left him--When Smoky stopped, looked back, and
seen the stud hightail it back to the mares, he had no hankering
to follow; he was convinced.

The next few days that followed was mighty aimless to Smoky, him
and the big buckskin had formed a pardnership in that time and
the two wandered around like they was lost and didn t care where
they went. They covered a lot of territory, passed up a lot of
good grassy hollows and shady places, but they kept a drifting
on. They grazed as they drifted and natural like followed up the
canyons and crossed over the high passes that d been the summer
range of Smoky s mammy and the bunch.

They came acrost other little bunches, but it seemed like in each
of 'em lhere was a wild-eyed thick-jawed stud come out ready to
kick the daylight out of 'em if any symptoms of them wanting to
trail in with the bunch was showed.

In their roaming around they passed other geldings which like themselves
had been kicked out of the stud bunches; the meeting with them was just
plain "howdedo s" and each and all passed on and headed their own
wandering way.--All would be hunkydory again for the buckskin if be
could find another bunch to run with where there was mares and little
colts. He had a mighty strong failing for the little fellers and most
any bunch would do if there was only a few of them in; but with Smoky,
it was his mammy he missed most, his brother, and the other colts he d
growed up with.

No other bunch would do as well, and the nicker he d send echoing
acrost canyons and over ridges every once in a while was just for
them certain few.

Smoky s mammy had no choice when that black stallion came and
scattered them out to his liking that way. She was made to join
that little bunch of his and she knowed better than try to do
different; she knowed she d only lose some hide in any attempt to
get away and that in the long run she d have to do as he pointed
out.

She was wise to the range and the ways of her kind, and even tho
she was as strong for Smoky as Smoky was for her she didn t miss
him so much as he did her. She felt in a way that he was now big
and mighty able to take care of himself, and then there was other
youngsters which called for all her attention. But it was
difterent with Smoky; she was his mammy and there was none other
that could take her place. He d growed up at her side and even
tho other little colts had come she was and always would be
the mother he knowed when he was wobblety legged and needed her.

Then one day and as time had wore on in lonesomeness that way,
there came a short break in the monotony which helped Smoky
forget some. Him and the buckskin had run acrost a little bunch
of mares,--there was some little colts in the bunch, and a stud,
a young stud.

The big buckskin sized up the stud the same as he d sized all the
others he d met, and as this young feller came up full of pride
and confidence to meet the two strangers, the big buckskin found
a flaw in him,--the flaw was nothing more or less than just
youth, he showed it in every move he made and every action.
From past experience the buckskin had figgered youth and
ignorance to go together, and that's what made it interesting.

Interesting by the fact that thru youth and ignorance the young
stallion wouldn t maybe be able to compete against the fighting
ability of the buckskin. The younger horse hadn t as yet fought
many battles; that the buckskin could feel at a glance of him. He
didn t turn away like he d done before,--as the stallion came on
he just stood in his tracks and watched him. Smoky was doing the
same.

There s bowed necks as the three touch nostrils, there s some
squealing and striking and then a kick is planted,--the young
stud had started things.

Smoky had caught the kick, which left him out a ways. In the
meantime the buckskin followed up the lead and went at it from
there. It was all a mighty fair exchange from the start, kicks
and bites was averaging pretty well on both parties, and for a
young horse that chestnut stud was sure doing well. All might of
come to a draw and both fighters might of quit about the same
time, if it hadn t been for Smoky.

Smoky, which had got to be pretty thick with the buckskin, and
had been a good pardner of his thru their lonesome roamings,
found it mighty natural like wanting to help when trouble came
that way; besides he was holding a grudge against the stud for
kicking him the way he did, and all them things together kinda
had him worked up to mix in.

His chance came as the chestnut whirled to plant a hard one on
the buckskin s ribs. There was only a few feet between Smoky and
the stud right then and double action started from there. The
stud felt hard hitting hoofs and teeth a getting him from both
sides and the punishment he received all at once wouldn t of been
worse if he d a lit in a stack of wild cats.

It was then that it come to his mind, and sudden, that he should
let up on the fighting and start to do some running if he wanted
to keep hisseif all in one piece. Smoky and the buckskin kept a
pounding on him and a helping along on the good hunch till
finally it was all made mighty plain. The chestnut picked himself
up as best and quick as he could, and made a leap out of reach of
the too many wicked hoofs and teeth, and tore up the earth for a
change of scenery. The two pardners done their best to escort him
on his way.

But as that day came to an end and as the sun passed over and
beyond the blue ridges, Smoky and his pardner could see a lone
horse outlined against the sky; the chestnut was following. He
followed 'em and the bunch they d chased him out of for three
days, and once he started a fight to win back what he d lost. He
just lost more hide and won nothing but another boost out of that
territory. Smoky and the big buckskin had handed him the same
medicine another stud had handed them.

The days that followed was mighty peaceful to the big buckskin,
and Smoky seemed some contented too, he was gradually getting
used to being away from his mother and new young fillies and
colts he was running with made it all a heap easier to forget.
Then again, the knocks he d got ever since that day when things
had been so peaceful with his mammy, when he just figgered he d
have to start something to bust up the monotony of that peace,
all took the mischief out of him. The fight with the black
stallion, the lonesome ramblings with the buckskin, and the other
fights with the chestnut stud all helped eddicate him and shape
him into a full sized, serious thinking gelding. It didn t take
so much to keep him contented no more, and somehow or another be
was seeing a heap more in life.

That s the way things stood with Smoky that summer; him and the
buckskin ranged high up in the mountains with the little bunch of
mares and colts, they all snoozed and grazed thru the days and
done the same thru the nights. A little play was brought on once
in a while by some of the young colts and Smoky and the buckskin
was always the steady victims of them. Them two older horses was
colts themselves at them times and the way they d all nip one
another and than sashay around hell bent for election, a human
would wonder at the care Smoky and the buckskin was taking so
that the colts would feel winners in all they d start.

Summer passed, the grass had gradually turned to a yellow brown
and the leaves of the aspens begin banking up on the edges of the
streams; fall had come, and one day the bunch started a grazing
steady lower and lower till a few days later the foothills was
reached. It was there that Smoky took the lead and headed for the
winter range where his mammy had put him thru that first year.
The big buckskin followed till, glancing back over his withers he
noticed that the mares and colts had left off and branched out
another direction. The buckskin stood in his tracks, watched
Smoky line out straight ahead, and then looked back at the mares
again. For the time being he wasn t sure whether to go on with
his pardner or turn back to the bunch. It was hard for him to
decide, he wanted to go with Smoky and still them little colts
sure had a mighty holt on his heart strings. It was just about as
he was doing the hardest figgering when one of them little
fellers came out of the bunch a ways and nickered for him. That
little nicker decided things for the buckskin, he answered it and
loped back to join with the other little fellers and the mares.

Smoky went on straight ahead. Maybe he was thinking strong,
thinking that he d see his mammy again on that winter range.
Anyway, it never come to him to look back and see if the bunch
was following him, and finally when it did come to him that he
was drifting on alone, he stopped and looked around in a sort of
vacant stare, his instinct had been controlling him and was
taking him back to his home range. But when he found himself
alone that way it all left him surprised at first and then
doubtful as to what to do. He was mighty attached to that
buckskin, the little colts, and the bunch in general.

He looked at the far away hills of his range and he seemed like
to think on the subject for quite a spell, then of a sudden his
head went up, a loud nicker went out and away in the distance he
could hear an answer,--the answer had come from his pardner, the
buckskin.

Smoky nickered again and loped back to the bunch. He d come to
feel that it didn t matter so much which range he wintered on, he
was a big horse now, and a few ridges to the north or south of
that range he was raised in didn t make much difference.--An old
mare had took the lead and from then on Smoky just followed side
by side with the buckskin. A little colt nipped him in the
flanks, and all was well.



CHAPTER IV

THE END OF A ROPE


Snow layed heavy on the range that winter, grass was hard to get
at, and the little bunch of ponies that tracked the low hills
which raised up on the prairies was finding themselves doing a
lot of rustling and pawing, and getting very little feed. Bunches
of cattle followed 'em wherever they went and rooted with their
nose for the few blades of dry grass them horses had pawed the
snow off of and left.

Hay couldn t be bought that winter and the stockmen found
themselves where they had to take a chance and pull their cattle
thru with whatever little hay the dry summer before could let 'em
have. Cattle had been in fine shape that fall, but as the snow
kept a piling and a drifting and covering up the feed the tallow
kept a dwindling away from under the critters' hides and lean
ribs begin to show more and more thru the long winter hair.

Then came a time as the blizzards blowed and regardless of what
all the stockmen done (which was to the limit of what any human
can do) when mounds of white begin to show here and there in that
part of the range. Underneath them white mounds was the dead
carcass of a critter. Some was dug up by the varmints, cayotes
was licking their chops; and to make things worse, there appeared
three big grey wolves on the skyline one day.

Smoky and the big buckskin horse was the first to see the wolves.
Their ears was towards 'em as the three outlaws of the range
trotted along and then stopped to look at the horses.

Smoky had never seen a wolf before, but the big old buckskin had
seen too many of 'em and had scars to show for his meetings with
the kind. He let a loud snort at the sight of the three grey
shapes and from that Smoky got a hunch that these was more to be
reckoned with than the cayotes he d chased when he was a
yearling. He had a hankering to go and give them a chase too, but
the nervous way the buckskin was acting kinda warned him that
it d be best for him to stick with the bunch.

The weak and dying cattle is what had really drawed the wolves,
of course they would just as soon tackle a strong animal as a
weak one but the scent that scattered over the range from the
dead stock and which would reach no less sensitive a nose than
theirs was a lot to their liking, and they d just drifted in to
investigate.

It was below them to touch any of the carcasses they d passed,
for these was old wolves well up to the game of killing, and
nothing but fresh meat would do. A good fat yearling or two year
old colt is what came highest and most to their tastes, and when
they skirted that ridge and spotted that little bunch of ponies
in the draw below, it was the sight of them that reminded their
appetities how long ago it was since they d et last, and they d
traveled a long ways.

But it was still daylight, and according to their natural way of
doing things they d wait till night come before making the kill.
They skirted on and out of sight of the horses, nosed the snow
and the air to make sure that the coast was clear, and after
another look at the country so they d know it when they returned,
the wolves trotted on. They showed what old timers they was as
they circled well away from a carcass for fear of a trap. They d
had their toes pinched in the steel jaws, scars showed where
bullets had grazed 'em, and one was still packing a piece of lead
which a cowboy had fired at him from a long shot with a 30-30.

The big buckskin back there in the draw knowed their way, and it
showed in his action. He d quit pawing for grass and instead put
all his attention to the tops of the ridges that was all around
him and the bunch. The way them three wolves had sized up the
bunch and then disappeared had made him restless and mighty
spooky; and finally that draw got to be too much of a hole for
him, too good a place for an enemy to come into without being
seen till that enemy was too close.

The older mares showed a lot of spookiness too, which all got
Smoky riled up so that he begin acting the same; and when the
buckskin took the lead out of the draw to where a good look of
the country around could be got, the whole bunch was mighty
anxious to follow; even the little colts seemed to have the hunch
that something was up; the white of their eyes showed and they
stuck mighty close to their mammies' side.

A big moon came up and the light of it reflected a path that
shined on the crusted snow. The air was mighty still, still with
the cold that'd gripped the range and made everything that lived
and carried hoofs come to a stand, so that no air would be
stirred; a breeze at that temperature would of froze stiff every
standing animal in that territory.

Smoky, the buckskin, and the bunch stood on a knoll where they
could see well around 'em. They looked like petrified or froze
there so still they all stood; there was no sign of life from 'em
excepting for an ear that moved once in a while and which was on
the job to catch any sound that might come from near or far.

The "yip, yip," and howl of a cayote was heard, another answered,
and pretty soon them two filled the air with their serenading--.
The echo of that hadn't quite died down when the long, drawed
out, and mournful howl of a wolf made that of the cayotes seem
like a joke. The little bunch of horses on the knoll hadn't
blinked an eye while the cayotes was serenading, but at the sound
of what followed, every head in the bunch went up, every ear
pointed towards the sound, and the buckskin with a few others
snorted.

Restlessness had got in the bunch. Smoky started out a ways and
came back; then pretty soon, and keeping as close together as
they could, they all begin moving. They moved on like shadows,
and like more shadows three grey shapes had took up their trail.

The big buckskin had stayed in the rear of the bunch and he was
first to notice the wolves. A loud whistling snort was heard from
him as he landed in the middle of the bunch and kettled 'em into
a stampede and the run for their lives. The cold air was split
forty ways and crusted hunks of snow was sent a flying as the
ponies all wild eyed broke their way thru the drifts at the edge
of a ridge and run on towards the big flat.

Smoky had stampeded with the rest and kept pretty well up in the
lead thru the run, but now that his blood was warming up in
plowing thru the deep snow, and being that that blood was
circulating more free up his neck and into his brain, it all put
somewhat of a different light on the subject. That brain of his
was all het up, on hair trigger with the waking up the run was
giving it, and pretty soon something hatched up in there that
made Smoky slow down till the bunch went past and ahead of him.--
He was wanting to see what was all fired dangerous about them
wolves so as to make the bunch run that way.

The big buckskin was the last to pass Smoky. He was busy keeping
two little colts just a few months old from lagging behind too
far, bucking the deep snow at the speed the bunch was making was
beginning to show on 'em and it was taking a lot of persuading
from the big horse to keep them little fellers on the move.

The wolves was steady catching up with the bunch and the attack
would of took place some sooner if it hadn't been for Smoky. His
lagging behind had fooled the wolves into thinking that the mouse
colored gelding had quit and was ready to make his last stand. It
had been Smoky's intention to wait for the killers and paw the
daylight out of 'em, but as the three rushed in on him he
figgered it a good idea to postpone the pawing for a while and do
a little running till he was some acquainted with their ways and
tricks.

Head and tail up and fire in his eyes he lined out and _led the
wolves away from the bunch_. They'd figgered on making him their
victim on account he was the handiest, but as the chase kept up
they found the gelding had a powerful lot of speed left in him.
In the meantime Smoky had somehow lost all hankering of stopping
and fight it out with 'em. There was something about the three
hungry looking crethures that kept him a moving, and his instinct
was warning him strong that he should keep some safe distance
between him and them.

He was doing that the best he could and as the running kept up
and the wolves couldn't get any closer they finally figgered they
was wasting their time. May be he got to looking too old and
tough for 'em and caculated they'd rather have younger and more
tender meat; besides he was leading 'em straight away from the
bunch which might make 'em lose their chances of getting anything
at all.

Smoky's play of leading the wolves off that way had been a great
relief to the bunch and mostly the young colts; they'd had a
chance to slow down some and get their second wind, and when the
killers showed up on their trail once again they was all more
able to sashay on and keep from reach of their tearing fangs.

When Smoky found that the wolves had left him and turned back
towards the bunch, it was his natural instinct to turn too and
follow up in their tracks. He had a hunch somehow that he'd be
needed there and he hadn't altogether lost the hope of a chance
of taking apart at least one of the outlaws.

It was a long and mighty hard run back till he caught up with the
bunch again, but Smoky wasn't the horse he was for nothing. He
made it in near as good a time as the wolves themselves, and he
got there just as the wolves circled around past the buckskin and
headed for one of the colts he'd been hazing.

The buckskin hadn't hardly been noticed; the wolves had passed
him up as too old, specially when there was such as the young
colts which could be got easy. The old horse had watched 'em
catch up with the bunch and go past him for a younger victim. He
had no way to know that they didn't want him, and he could of
kept well in the lead of the bunch if he'd wanted to, but he'd
made hisself guardian over the little colts and he couldn't for
the life of him have left 'em behind. Of course the little
fellers' mammies would of fought for 'em too but they was at the
stage where they felt every horse was for himself; they'd scared
into a stampede and was all a running for their own lives.

The old buckskin knowed wolves; he knowed they had their eye on
him and it was best to keep neutral till they'd got over being
watched of every move he'd make; and as the three greys passed
him and was gaining on the scared little colts he kept to one
side and watched. It was just as the leader made a leap for one
of the little fellers' ham strings that the big buckskin came to
life, made a leap too, and went to fighting at the risk of his
own life.

The wolves hadn't looked for no such move from him. They'd got
over watching and figgered he was far behind and had put all
their attention on dragging down the victim they'd picked. It was
a mighty big surprise for them when from behind the big buckskin
landed on the second wolf and buried him in the snow while on his
way to the first. A good sized hoof came down just as that first
wolf turned his head to meet the fighting buckskin. That hoof
connected with his lower jaw as he made the turn and left that
jaw hanging limp and plum useless.--When the old pony looked back
for the other wolves there was long grey hairs sticking between
his teeth.

It was about then when Smoky arrived on the scene. He'd come up
right behind the buckskin and when the second wolf picked himself
up out of the snow and made a grab which would of been the death
of the old horse, Smoky done a side swipe that was quicker than
chained lightning. A hind hoof came up and caught that wolf right
under a front leg close to the body and took that leg off of him
like it'd been a tooth pick;--another horse that'd come up from
behind and hadn't been reckoned with.

It was during this commotion of biting and kicking mixture of
buckskin and mouse colored horseflesh and flying grey wolves that
the third and only able wolf disappeared into thin air. Them two
fighting ponies had took away all his appetite for colt meat and
left a hankering only to be gone from the reach of their
destroying hoofs. Three of his kind could of competed with the
mad ponies if their attention had been on them from the start,
but that's where the slip had been made, and as it was that lone
wolf didn't feel at all equal of resuming what the leader of the
pack had started.--He left.

The moon faded away into the sky; break of day had come. Out on
the flat the little bunch of ponies was knee deep in the snow and
a pawing away for the grass that was underneath, there wasn't a
scratch on nary a hide to show that any had ever seen a wolf; but
if Smoky and his pardner the buckskin hadn't been in that little
bunch there would of been another story to tell. The little colt
which was so busy digging up feed for himself, and plum ignorant
of the close call he'd had, would of been amongst the missing and
just easing the appetites of three gray wolves; and who knows but
what a couple more colts might of been killed along with him, for
once a wolf gets a taste of warm blood there's no telling how far
he'll go.

The "yip, yip" and howl of a cayote sounded off from the hills,
and gradual as the sun came up big clouds showed over the skyline
from the northwest and seemed like headed to meet and kill that
sun's warm rays. By noon that day a blizzard had come and the
little bunch of ponies faced it on the way back to the shelter of
the bills from where they'd left in their run for life.

The howl of a lone wolf was heard that night, and away off to the
south there came an answer, an answer that was more drawed out
and mournful than any that'd ever been heard. Smoky snorted, but
with the buckskin, only his head went up, his ears pointed
towards the sound. He knowed wolves and he knowed they wouldn't
be back, not that night.

The blizzard hung on for a day and filled the ravines with deep
drifts; then the wind died and it settled down to a slow falling
snow. There was more white mounds where that snow had covered the
carcasses of dead critters, but amongst them mounds there was one
that wasn't made by any of the beliering grass eating kind.--A
big gray wolf layed there, a broke jaw had been the cause of his
death.

(Some months later a cowboy run down and roped a three legged
wolf and remarked as he looked close to where a front leg was
missing, how "it must of been an awful wicked bullet to've took
that leg off so neat.")

The already long winter dragged and hung on like it never was
going to quit, snow was deep, and even tho the sun climbed higher
and stayed longer there seemed to be no more heat from it than
there'd been two months before and when it was at its lowest. The
ponies was having a hard time and as the feed kept a getting to
be harder to reach right along they was steady losing on weight
and strength. The roundness that'd been theirs a few months
before was all gone and instead they showed lean and slab sided.

Finally, and after it seemed there'd be no end to the rough
weather, there came a break; it turned warmer, and some time
later the snow begin to sag and then melt on the sunny side of
the hills, gradually, and after what seemed weeks instead of days
the grass showed in plain sight more and more till the time come
when the ponies didn't have to paw for their feed no more. Then
after a while there was green stems showing thru the dry grass.--
The dangers of the winter was over.

The range had turned from white to brown and then green and the
little bunch of ponies begin to perk up considerable. The winter
hair was a slipping, their eyes showed more bright, and pretty
soon ribs begin to disappear under layers of fat and glossy
hides. Then to make this new green world as great and wonderful
as the winter before had been hard and cruel, there begin to
appear brand new little colts in the bunch, all slick little
fellers and full of play. And as the bunch drifted to the open
prairie they came acrost little calves, their little white faces
a shining in the sun.

Smoky had more than kept with all the changes to the good; he
showed it in every move he made, and as him and the old buckskin
(which had got young again) played around and showed jealous over
the new colts, it made a sight that was complete in all that life
could give.

There was months of peace that way; the little bunch roamed the
prairies not at all seeming to care where sunup found 'em. Tall
green feed was a plenty and everywheres, clear swift mountain
streams slowed down on the flats and furnished moisture for the
big cottonwood that reached out in the sky and made cool shade,
and as it was, time was just let slip by and enjoyed only as a
free range horse with little colts for company can enjoy it.

It was more thru habit than heat that the little bunch drifted on
up the foothills one day and then higher in the mountain. May be
they liked the breeze up there better, or the change of feed, or
maybe it was that too many riders had been showing up off and on
and which kinda disturbed 'em.

But them riders couldn't be dodged that easy, and one day for a
whole half hour there was one within a half a mile of 'em a
setting on his horse, field glasses in his hands and looking at
the little bunch as they fanned themselves on a high ridge plum
ignorant of the eyes that was on 'em.

That rider had spotted the mouse-colored blaze-faced gelding, and
at the sight of him let out a whistle of surprise of seeing such
a horse. He'd rode a little closer then and watched that horse
some more. He'd of come still closer only he didn't want to
kettle the bunch and make 'em suspicious, besides he'd just
wanted to locate where that horse was running so he'd know where
to find him when he wanted to. He was one of the Rocking R men.

Smoky had stood the whole watchful spell without a hunch of it;
and as him and the little bunch started a grazing on up the
mountain there was nothing further away from his mind than the
thought of a human on his trail. Of course there wasn't any human
on his trail that day, but there would be soon, for the way that
rider talked that night, and described Smoky to the broncho
buster of the outfit, all indicated that it wouldn't be long when
the little horse would be finding himself in a high pole corral.

Smoky was now a four year old going on five, the age when most
all range geldings are run in and broke to either saddle or
harness, for use on the range or to fit 'em for market. The
little horse'd had a good long time of freedom and if he was kept
with the outfit he'd get more, but his time for usefulness had
come. The free roaming of the hills and flats was past for a
while till the work he'd be cut out for was done, and Smoky's
experience from his colt days on till now would go on with more
learning and experiences with the human.

Smoky's waking up to realizing them things came sudden and all
mighty unexpected. A long legged rider on a long legged horse had
showed up on a ridge above him and the bunch; there'd been a lot
of territory covered in mighty fast time as all lit into a run
and they was hazed down onto the flats and then into long pole
wings towards the corral; then first thing Smoky knowed he was
penned in, he couldn't go no further. A big gate was closed and
all around him was big cottonwood bars.

In another pen joining the one Smoky was in there was other
horses, all geldings and along about Smoky's size and age. The
gate between was opened and Smoky was cut out of his bunch by
that same long legged rider that'd run him in, and put thru that
gate to join them other geldings. The gate was closed again after
him.

Smoky peeked thru the bars and watched the rider open the outside
gate and leave out the bunch he'd run with. He watched one of the
mares take the lead and in a long lope, head back to the high
territory from where they'd come, he watched the little colts
running to keep up and then he seen the big buckskin tagging
along. His pardner and all was leaving him amongst strange
horses, in a high corral, and not far away was a human which to
Smoky was ten times worse than any wolf.

He nickered, and there was a sound to it that made the buckskin
stop, look back, and nicker an answer. The old horse stood there
a while kinda like he was waiting, but pretty soon he started
again and caught up with the bunch. The old buckskin knowed
humans, he'd packed many a one of 'em on many a long ride; his
freedom had been handed back to him for the good work he'd done.
He'd experienced what Smoky was going thru now and knowing what
he did it was all plain to him just what was up. There was no use
of him waiting.

Smoky watched him and the bunch disappear in a cloud of dust and
out of sight. If only there was no bars holding him it wouldn't
take him long and he could still catch up with 'em, but--He was
brought back to hard facts by the squeak of the heavy gate as it
was pulled open, and the cowboy walked in with a long coil of
rope on his arm.

Smoky let out a snort at the sight of the human and tore up the
earth for the far side of the corral. Natural fear of the
crethure had a hold on him and once against the solid bars he
turned and quivering faced what he felt was his worst enemy.

If Smoky could only of knowed, there'd been a lot of suffering
which he wouldn't had to've went thru on account of that fear; if
he'd only knowed that right then that human was just admiring him
for all he was worth and that doing the little horse any harm was
the furthest thing away from his mind. But the wild gelding had
no way of knowing, and every word that human was saying sounded
to him like the growl of a flesh tearing animal, and every move
was a step closer to the victim;--he was the victim.

The cowboy well understood his kind. He'd been raised on the
backs of such as him and he was making his living by gentling
that kind and making good saddle horses out of 'em; and as he
stood there, his eyes taking in every move the mouse colored
gelding was making, there was a smile showed under the stetson.
That smile was just for the glad way he felt as he sized him up
and seen where he was all saddle horse, not the kind that'd fit
in harness and to be shipped to farming countries. He was glad to
know that he'd be the first to touch that pony's hide, and as he
kept his eye on the gelding, at the same time shaking out a loop,
he felt there'd be no end of patience for such a horse as that
one looked to be.

His ioop ready he walked towards the gelding. Smoky watched him
come and that pony's actions showed where he just wanted to
shrink away to nothing and disappear; but he stayed full size,
and seen where his next best move was to just move, and away to
most any old place. The other geldings scattered as the human
came on, and Smoky piled in amongst 'em full speed to the other
side of the corral; about that time he heard the hiss of a rope
and that thing which he likened to a snake coiled up and right
around both his front feet.

Them front feet was jerked away from under him as he sailed in
the air and tried to get away, and then he made a circle in the
atmosphere and came down to earth flat on his side. He no more
than hit the ground when he tried to get up. He tried it again
and again, and as the cowboy talked to him and advised him to
ease up on the fighting, Smoky turned a wild eyed look his way
and snorted.

"Now lay down and be good" says that cowboy. "I sure don't want
to skin up that pretty hide of yours."

Smoky did lay down; he had to, for in another few seconds his
four feet was tied together. He breathed hard as he layed there
plum helpless. His mind wasn't working no more, his heart was a
thumping fit to bust, and the racing of the blood thru his body
only stampeded his brain. He was past trying to figger out how he
was throwed so easy and then held down where he could move only
his head. No cougar or bear could of made him so helpless; he
could of fought with them; but with this human it all seemed like
he had no chance, and the mystery of that human's power is what
put the fear in him, a fear the likes of which was a heap worse
than he'd felt if he'd been cornered by a thousand bears,
cougars, and wolves.

In a dazed way he seen the cowboy bend over him; a knee touched
his neck and the muscles along there quivered the same as if a
snake's fangs had been feeling for a holt. A hand touched his ear
and another his forehead; there was no pain but if there had been
the little horse would of never felt it.

Pretty soon a hackamore was slipped on his head, he felt the
rawhide "bosal" around his nose, and then the "feador" rope
around his neck, all the while the crethure was making a low, and
_somehow_ not aggravating noise. It was a talking to him.

The cowboy gave his forehead a couple of rubs, then stood up and
walked around to the pony's feet. Smoky felt the tight ropes
loosening up from around his ankles and pulled away; his feet was
free but his mind was confused a lot and he still layed there;
then he felt a pull on the hackamore rope.

"Come on up and stand on your legs" says that cowboy,--and Smoky
came to life.

He came to life a pawing and rearing and a snorting. His feet was
free and he could handle 'em again; he did handle 'em and put in
all the strength and action he had a trying to pull away from the
cowboy which was holding him with a long rope. There's some
talk of the skill that's showed between the angler and the trout,
but the skill that was brought out from that hundred and fifty
pound cowboy a holding that eleven hundred pounds of kinky, wild
horseflesh was past talking about, and beyond the figgering out
of any human that's not up to the trade of bronco busting.

The cowboy played his rope and held his horse; he'd held many
like him before and most all had fought the same as Smoky was now
fighting. That pony's eyes was afire as he seen there was no
chance for any get away even when he was on his feet. He couldn't
at all shake that two legged hunk of terror, and as he snorted
and fought the rope that still held fast around his head and
neck, he begin to tire some; and came a time when as the cowboy
stood still a few yards away he stood still too, and legs wide
apart, sweat a dripping from his slick hide, he took in a
breathing spell.

He stood there as he watched the cowboy back away and let the
rope slide thru his hands; he watched him open the gate and get
the saddle horse that'd been left to stand on the other side,
seen him get on that horse and then pick up the slack of the rope
that was holding him. There was thirty feet of it between him and
the mounted human, and when that rope was tossed a little as the
rider circled around him, Smoky made a leap and shaking his head
like trying to slip what held him, he headed straight on for the
open gate.

But once past it Smoky was jerked to a fighting standstill, he
hadn't as yet reckoned that a rope could hold him--. The gate was
closed after him and the rider had went thru and then Smoky felt
some slack. He took advantage of that and started out full speed
again; he was out of the corral and in the open, the rope that
was still on him was only felt and wasn't holding him from lining
out.

A shallow creek bottom full of tall green feed was by that corral
and Smoky headed down it; any place would do so long as he could
run and keep a distance between him and that rider; but that run
wasn't to last long, once again he felt the rope tighten till he
was brought to a stop, and facing the rider once more, watched
him get off his horse and fasten the end of the long rope to a
log.

"Well, little horse" says the cowboy as he stood there and
watched him for a spell, "don't play too rough with this rope,
the better you treat it the better it'll treat you," and with
that he got on his horse and rode off towards the corrals where
more broncs waited for the same eddication that Smoky had just
got.

That long soft and thick cotton rope, and that log which held
Smoky, was the means of his first learnings as to ways for
usefulness to the human. The more he'd fight that rope and try to
get away from it the more he'd learn that his fighting and
tearing was of _no use_. That rope was on the job steady and to
learn him to turn as he run and hit the end of it, it would take
the stiffness out of his neck and there'd come a time when he'd
give to a pull from either side without fighting and wanting to
be convinced that it could be done. The log which the rope was
tied to was part of the teaching apparatus, heavy enough to hold
the pony, and even tho it could be dragged around some Smoky
couldn't get very far with it.

The little horse realized somehow as he sized up the contraption
that the end had come to all he'd enjoyed with the freedom he'd
had, cool shades,--clear streams, and grassy ranges to all roam
on as he pleased had been took away from him; he didn't know what
was to come next, but he did know that he was on that creek
bottom, close to corrals, and there to stay for a spell.



CHAPTER V

THE BRONC TWISTER STEPS UP


A cloud of dust was hanging on over the big corrals where Clint,
the bronc twister of the Rocking U outfit, was busy starting raw
broncs under the saddle and "twisted" 'em in shape for good
saddle stock. It was long, hot, and hard days for that cowboy as
he wrestled with the slick, fat, and snorty ponies and convinced
'em that they all could be led, rode, and handled according to
the way he seen fit; but Clint was used to that; he'd been at it
for years with nary a rest or relief from the work that was
beginning to tell on him.

He'd take ten broncs at a time and soon as he'd took the rough
off them ten he'd turn 'em over as broke and run in ten more raw,
wild ponies. Each green colt was rode every day if even only for
half an hour, and gradually learned to behave under the saddle.
There was a few that wouldn't learn to behave, but the Rocking R
outfit had good men and all them ponies was put in to their work
whether they was good or bad.

Clint had been with the layout for near two years, and in that
time had broke to ride somewheres around eighty head of horses.
He'd broke many more for other outfits and never made an outlaw.
If one did turn outlaw once in a while it was because of that
pony's natural instinct to be that way, but Clint handled and
rode 'em all just the same,--if a perticular horse couldn't be
learned it sure wasn't his fault and none had better try to learn
that same horse _anything_.

As has been said before, bronc fighting was beginning to tell on
Clint,--none of them ponies he'd broke had spared him, and
instead they'd called on for all that was in him. Many had tried
to tear him apart and scatter him in the dust of the big corrals;
hoofs had come like greased lightning and took hunks off his
batwing chaps, teeth had took a iew shirts off his back, and as
he'd climbed on one after another of these wild, kinky ponies
they most all tried to see if they could move the heart of him
from one side of his body to the other.

There was many times when he was layed up with dislocated
shoulders, ribs broke and legs the same. From the root of his
hair to the toes in his made to order boots there was signs, if
not seen they was felt, where some horse had twisted, broke, or
shook something loose. Each happening had come more or less
separate, and healed some in time, but as some kept a repeating
off and on there was some parts of him which never got strong
again; and as time went on, and as Clint said, "he was beginning
to feel loose like an old clock and figgered that some day some
bucking hunk of horseflesh would take the _tick_ out of him and
scatter him out so that none of the parts would never be found
again."

Clint had started riding rough ones long before he quit growing
and that's the condition he was in at thirty, an old man, far as
riding was concerned. The horses of the same big outfit he'd rode
for was worked on the average of only four months in the year,
and in them four months the broke horses was rode only four or
five hours once every three days. That might show some of the
difference in the work the cowboy and the cowhorse does with a
real cow outfit.--The men go to pieces young and early and the
ponies stay fat,--but there was no grudge for there's nobody in
the world likes to see and ride a fat strong horse more than does
the cowboy.

They'll keep the ponies fat and feeling good, and some of them
horses find it hard to behave and will try to jar loose the eye
teeth of their riders. The cowboy wants 'em that way tho,--it's a
pride of his to have a kinky horse under him that's feeling good
rather than some gentle old plug that's leg weary. That all gets
him in time, but there's a grin on his face when that time comes,
a grin from the pride of knowing that he never was seen on no
horse that was against the principle of a cowboy to ride.

Like with Clint, horses was the life of him. He loved 'em for all
he was worth and the greatest pleasure in the world for him was
in just being with a corral full of 'em, handling 'em and feeling
of their hides. The satisfaction he'd get out of seeing some four
year old colt learn the things he'd teach meant a heap more to
him than the wages he drawed for that work; and there was times
as he'd be breaking some right brainy gelding and watch the horse
pick up fast on the eddication he'd give him, when he'd feel real
attached to the pony. He'd hate to give him up when the time came
for all half broke horses to be turned over to the round up
wagons and where more teaching in the handling of the critter
begin.

"I feel sort of married to them kind of ponies" he'd say, "and I
sure don't hanker to part with 'em just when we're beginning to
get along good together, but" he'd go on "I guess as long as I'll
be breaking horses this way I can't get too sensitive."

But Clint kept a being sensitive that way, and he never was happy
when he'd see riders coming in on him and then ride away hazing a
bunch of the broncs he'd "started."

"Some day," he was heard to say once "I'm going to meet a horse I'll
really get married to, and then there'll be things a popping."

Clint would have such a liking for some of them ponies that he'd
forget and didn't want to think that they belonged to the company
and not to him. He was just hired to break 'em. He'd reason that
out often but that reasoning never fazed the hankering he felt
and that's how come when he run in the mouse colored gelding he
begin to do some tall figgering.

He had a hunch when he first set eyes on that pony that he'd met
the horse which would start "things a popping" when any rider
showed up to claim all that's half broke. Clint had dreamed of
such a horse as the mouse colored gelding but he'd never expected
to see one really living, that pony had got holt of his heart
strings from the start, and as he watched thru the bars of the
corral out to where the horse was picketed he felt him to be the
kind he'd steal if he couldn't buy, and if he could neither steal
nor buy he'd work for.

It'd been two days since he'd run him in and put him on the
picket rope outside the corral a ways, and in them two days Clint
had been mighty fearful lest somebody rode up on him, seen the
horse and took possession of him as private saddle stock for the
superintendent or some other what owned shares in the outfit and
liked pretty horses that way. Clint wanted that horse mighty bad
and he was just leary something would happen so he'd be took away
from him, but as he'd reason some he was less worried and he'd
wind up by saying as he'd take another peek towards the gelding.
"They'd have to let me break him first, and before anybody else
gets him I'll sure make an outlaw out of that horse."

That was no way for Clint to feel maybe, but that's sure enough
the way he figgered on doing rather than lose the horse to
anybody else;--that feeling was past skin deep with him and that
I think excuses him some.

In the two days that Clint'd had the horse up, there was no
chance passed where he could show his feelings and win that
pony's confidence,--if the picket rope tangled him up too much
Clint was right there to untangle him and each time the gelding
fought less when he came. That pony was gradually losing his fear
of being et up or tore' apart by the human and pretty soon he
felt as Clint came and went that each visit from that crethure
brought some comfort in a way.

It was on the second evening and when the day's work was all done
that Clint made his way from the bunk house to where the gelding
was picketed. He went up to within a rope's length of the horse,
rolled a smoke, and stood there watching him.

"Smoky," he says, "you're some horse"--Clint hadn't hardly
realized he'd spoke a name, he was too busy watching and admiring
that pony's every move, so as it was that name came unconscious
like to the cowboy, and it was used and repeated from then on as
natural as tho that name had been thought and decided on.

He'd named many horses and had always let the name come to him
either by the color, size, or shape of each horse, and sometimes
by the way they acted. He'd called one tall rangy horse "Shorty"
and another low built small horse "Skyhigh." Often the name
didn't at all fit the horse in that way but there was some reason
there, the same as there was a mighty good reason to call the
mouse colored gelding "Smoky."

He did look like a rounded shiny cloud of grey smoke, and as he
held his ground and watched the cowboy, he acted as tho he might
live up to his name and really go up in smoke,--his acquaintance
with the human hadn't been very long and he wasn't as yet any too
confident.

Clint could tell as he watched just what was going on in that
pony's think tank; he could still see fear in his eyes, but mixed
in with that fear was a lot of nerve that showed fight. He knowed
that pony would fight and make himself hard to handle, and he'd
of been mighty disappointed not to've seen them signs in the
horse. It was only natural that any of his kind should act this
way and he figgered the wilder the spirit the bigger and more
worth while would the winning be.--He would take his time, do a
good job and turn Smoky from a wild raw bronc into a well broke
and eddicated cowhorse.

He took a few steps closer and Smoky backed away to the end of
the rope,--he snorted when he found he couldn't back no further
and pawed at the rope as the cowboy kept a coming still closer
and closer. Clint took his time but came on steady and a talking
the while till he finally got within a couple of feet of the
horse and where he could touch him. Hanging on to the rope with
the right hand he reached out with the left and touched him easy
between the eyes. Smoky flinched and snorted but he stood it,--he
stood it for quite a spell and felt the hand rubbing on his
forehead and working up and up towards his ears.

Clint had just about got to one of them ears when Smoky rubbed
his nose along the cowboy's sleeve, took a sniff, and then of a
sudden nipped him on the arm. That had happened to him before
many a time and he'd been ready for it with the result that the
pony got only a piece of shirt and no flesh.

"Now, don't be so daggoned ornery," says that cowboy as he kept a
rubbing the same as tho nothing had happened, "I only want to
reach between them ears and touch that knowledge bump of yours."

Finally he did reach the bump and rubbed around there a spell.
Smoky struck once, Clint dodged the front hoof and kept a
rubbing. He rubbed past the left ear and down his neck till the
withers was reached, the mane was worked on and all the knots in
it untangled. The little horse quivered and flinched every once
in a while but the rubbing process went on till Smoky begin
showing symptoms that he could stand it all easy enough.
In the meantime Clint talked to him like he'd never took time to
talk to another horse before, and if Smoky could of understood
he'd knowed by that talk just what was ahead for him; but Smoky
wasn't thinking on what was ahead,--the present had him worried
enough as it was, and he was kept busy watching every move that
human was making.

Smoky had lost considerable wildness during the two days on the
picket rope. He'd learned there was no use in fighting the rope
that held him, that it was best to turn when he came to the end
of it, and gradually he was getting used to have that rope touch
him here and there and he'd quit kicking at it. He was more
familiar with that than with the human who put him there, but the
rope done the trick of getting him used to having anything touch
him,--it kinda broke him to stand the touch of the hand.

He was learning to stand that well enough too, but the movements
of that hand had to be just right, not too quick and no jabbing
done or there'd be a scattering of something mighty quick.

"I'm sure making a lot of fuss over you" says Clint as he rubs on
past the withers and along his back a ways. "If you was just an
ordinary bronc you'd be missing most of this attention and you'd
be finding yourself in the corral with me on top of you by
tomorrow, and turned in the 'Remuda' by another month, but I got
a scheme up on account of me liking you the way I do: I'm going
to take my time and make you my private top horse and when that's
done I'll have every cowboy in the country jealous of me for
having such a horse as you're going to turn out to be."

With Clint's scheming that way there was a good chance of him
winning out, and gradually, steady, the eddication of Smoky
started in. That cowboy called on for all he knowed in the
profession of horse breaking and used it all with a lot of time
to shape out Smoky the way he wanted him. No company time was
used on the horse on account Clint felt it wouldn't been doing
the square thing, "cause" as he says "it'll be bad enough if I
have to steal him."--Of curse Clint wouldn't steal that horse or
no other one, but he felt like he'd sure do something out of the
ordinary rather than let Smoky go to any other rider.

Every evening after that last meal of the day was over, Clint
would be down in the creek bottom with Smoky. What went on there
showed some of what Clint really thought of the mouse colored
gelding, and there was no disappointed look on his face when dark
made him return to the bunk house.

Smoky had been on the picket rope about a week. In that time
Clint had kept his eye on him thru the day while working in the
corral and spent a couple of hours with him every evening. The
little horse had got used to the rope and wouldn't pay no
attention to it no more, but as for the cowboy he was just
neutral; it was hard for him to shed off the fear of the human
and which he'd inherited,--that human was still a mighty big
mystery to him even after a week's acquaintance. It'd done him no
harm but his wild instinct kept a warning him to expect most
anything. The power that two legged crethure had over him kept
him leary and watching for the next move, whatever that would be
--and that's why Smoky was still neutral, his confidence for the
human hadn't come to the top as yet and not a move did that
cowboy make which he didn't see.

"You sure got your eye on me, aint you, little horse?" Clint
would say, "but that's the way I want you to be," he'd go on,
"for the more you watch the more you'll see and the quicker
you'll learn."

Smoky did watch and see and learn, and then one evening Clint
untied the long picket rope from the log and started leading him
towards the corral; the little horse was broke to lead by then
and he followed easy enough. His heart was a thumping in wonder
of what was due to happen as the cowboy led him thru the big pole
gate. He stepped high and careful and his eyes took in everything
that looked suspicious,--a slicker hanging over one side of the
corral made him snort and try to pull away. Clint talked to him,
and kept on a leading him thru another gate into another smaller
and round corral. A big snubbing post stuck up in the center of
it and by that post was a big brown and shiny hunk of leather; it
was Clint's saddle.

"Well now, little horse, the performance is about to begin,
you're going to get your first smell of saddle leather." Clint
had turned as he spoke and begin rubbing on Smoky's forehead. For
once since Smoky had been caught his attention wasn't on the
cowboy. That hunk of leather was drawing all his interest; and
ears pointed straight at it, eyes a shining, he snorted his
suspicions and dislike for the looks of the contraption that was
laying there, waiting it seemed like to jump at him and eat him
alive.

"Look, snort, and paw at it all you want," says the cowboy.
"You'll get well acquainted with it before you get thru, and I
won't rush the acquaintance either."

Clint didn't. He kept Smoky to within a few feet of the saddle
and grinning some at the pony's actions, kept a rubbing him back
of the ears while the investigation was going on. Smoky was for
getting away from there but Clint was persuading him to stick
around close, and there was nothing for him to do but just that.

A move from the direction of that saddle right then would of
queered things and made Smoky scatter, and Clint couldn't of held
him either for a ways, but the hunk of leather layed still,
mighty still, and pretty soon it kinda lost its dangerous look to
the little horse,--he begin looking around for other things in
that corral which wouldn't be to his liking and not seeing
anything that was worth getting spooky at, Smoky begin watching
the cowboy again.

It was about then that Clint reached over and picked up the
saddle slow and easy and drug it closer to Smoky. At the first
move of the riggin' the little horse snorted and backed away but
Clint and the saddle kept a coming straight towards him, slow but
steady. One side of the high corral finally was reached. Smoky
had backed against it and couldn't go no further. The cowboy,
still hanging onto the rope that held his head, came on, saddle
and all with him, and quivering with fear the little horse layed
low. Feet straight out in front and head near to the ground he
stayed there, and got another and different eddication with the
saddle, this time it was dragging.

When Clint thought that had gone far enough and seen where Smoky
had got over the worst of his fear he layed the saddle down
again, and picking up an old saddle blanket he begin fanning the
air with it, closer and closer to Smoky came the blanket as the
fanning motion kept on, and stary eyed the little horse watched.
He struck at it and snorted a couple of times and he even tried
to turn and kick, but the blanket came on till finally one corner
of it grazed his side. He flinched and kicked and tried to jerk
away but there was no dodging that spooky looking thing.

Not a word was heard from the cowboy as the "sacking" went on,
this was a part of the eddication that was necessary and which
should be put thru mighty quiet. It was all a spooky enough
performance to a raw bronc without adding on any talking, and
even tho the goings on scared the pony near out of his hide, that
blanket done the trick of showing him that no matter how bad it
looked it wasn't going to hurt him, it was one mighty good thing
to teach him general confidence in the cowboy and his riggin'.

Smoky fought like a cornered wolf and tried to get away, but he
had no chance,--Clint had "sacked" many a bronc that'd fought as
much and the cigarette between his lips noticed no change of
spells between puffs. Smoky showed hate and fear of the human
once again the same as when he was first caught, his instinct had
warned him to expect most anything from that crethure, and he
wasn't surprised at the way things had turned;--but that didn't
help any, he just wanted to sail clear over the corral and
disappear.

Thru all that fighting and goings on the sacking kept up in
steady motion. Wherever the long blanket touched Smoky he
flinched, and kicked at it and squealed. He was too scared to
realize that there was no sting or any kind of a hurt felt. It
was just the looks of the thing which had him going and his
fighting instinct just had to answer every swish of that thing
that circled around a leg one time and his neck the next.

Finally, and whether it was from being tired or fighting or that
he was dazed past caring of what was going on, Smoky begin to let
up; his kicks begin to get less wicked and his eyes lost some of
the fiery look till came a time when he stood near still and he'd
only flinch as the blanket kept a touching, going away, and
touching him here and there and all over.

Clint noticing the little horse calming down remarked, "You'll
get so you'll like it pretty soon." But Smoky wasn't showing no
such symptom as yet, he was just standing it best as he could and
that was all.

Both sides and all around Smoky went Clint with his blanket till
the little horse finally even quit flinching. The cowboy then
dropped the rope that was holding the horse and worked his
blanket wilder than ever, that blanket was layed everywhere on
that pony's hide and around his legs, he layed it on the ground
and drug it under him and all Smoky would do was to cock one ear
and watch it, but he never moved. A half an hour before such a
play would of sent him straight up.

Clint worked on for a while longer till he was sure there wasn't
a spot on that pony that'd flinch at the feel of the blanket,
then he begin to notice that Smoky was finally getting so he
kinda liked the performance, no flies could touch him while that
was going on, and that blanket being pulled all over him that way
seemed to kind of soothe some.

It was about when Clint figgered he could do no more good in the
way of sacking that he picked up his saddle again and came
straight towards Smoky with it. The squeak of the riggin' brought
some interest from the horse, but Clint was careful to bring the
old blanket with him and keep a fanning the same as to let him
know that one was no worse than the other.

In the first saddling of most broncs Clint generally tied up one
of their hind legs so as to hinder 'em from kicking the saddle
out of his hands and at the same time learn 'em to stand still
while that went on;--a few of 'em he'd just hobble in front. And
being that Smoky'd had more teaching than the average colt
generally gets before first saddling, Clint figgered that just
hobbling his front feet would do.

The sacking had helped a lot and Clint had no trouble fastening
the rawhide hobbles around Smoky's ankles. The pony snorted at
him a little but stood still, for Clint was waving that blanket
around as he worked. Once the hobbles was on he picked up his
saddle and eased it up and on that pony's back. Smoky had a hunch
that something new was going on, something different than the
sacking performance which he'd just went thru; but as nothing
happened outside of the flapping of stirrup leathers and cinches
he stood in one spot, only a quiver in the muscles along his
shoulder showed how much alive he was, and how quick he could
leave the earth if anything "goosed" him.

Plenty of practice had made Clint past master at putting a saddle
on a green colt, nothing happened to make Smoky want to move out
of his tracks, and even when the cinch was reached for and drawed
up under his belly lie never batted an eye. The sacking had all
been a mighty fine preliminary for all this that followed and
cured the horse from scaring at everything that flapped on or
around him.

As it was Smoky hardly realized that he was saddled till Clint
took the hobbles off his front feet and pulled him to one side.
At that pull he felt something fastened to him and hanging on;
that was a new kind of feeling to Smoky and it kettled him, down
went his head and he lit in to bucking.

Clint had expected that, for no bronc likes the feel of the cinch
no matter how loose it might be, and when Smoky bogged his head
that way he was ready;--he let the hackamore rope slide thru his
hands for a ways and till he could get a good footing, then he
give that rope a little flip and set down on it. That done the
trick and it come daggone near upsetting the little horse, but
Clint let out just enough slack and that saved him. He didn't
want to throw the horse but then he didn't want to have that
horse buck with an empty saddle either.

"Now Smoky," says that cowboy as the horse jerked to his senses,
turned and faced him, "I don't want you to waste any of your
energy that way, if you want to do any bucking you just wait till
I get in the middle of you."

Smoky waited, but it wasn't thru the talk the cowboy had handed
him that he did wait; it was that he remembered how that rope had
upset him that first day he was picketed to the log outside the
corral; and he wasn't hankering to be "busted" that way again.

There's folks that's read some on how horses are broke on the
range, and from that reading they get the idea that the cowboy
breaks the horses' spirit, that it's the only way a wild horse
can be tamed. What I've got to say on the subject if that's
what's believed, is that either them folks read something that's
mighty wrong, or else they got the wrong impression and
misunderstood what they read; and breaking a horse the way he's
broke on the range is about the same on the animal as schooling
is to the human youngster. The spirit of the wild horse is the
same after years of riding as it was before he ever felt a rope,
and there's no human in the world wants to perserve that spirit
in the horse like the cowboy does;--he's the one what knows
better than anybody else that a horse with a broken spirit is no
horse at all.

To them that _only_ sees a wild horse roped and rode and don't
know the insides of the game, horse breaking might seem a little
rough; but I'm here to say that it's not near as rough as it is
necessary, and in the long run it's the rider that gets treated
the roughest. You let a wild horse get away with something once
and he'll try it again till there will come a time when even if
there's no meanness in him he'll develop some. That's what makes
outlaws.

Outlaws are made mostly when a horse proves too much for the man
that handles him. A wild horse will turn outlaw often if handled
by any other than them that knows his kind, and there'll be no
way of breaking him only thru starvation and abuse. His spirit
would be broken then too, and that proves that the cowboy,
knowing his business, will see that the pony's heart is kept
intact.

There's a variety in horse minds as big as there is amongst human
minds. Some need more persuading than others, and a few of 'em,
no matter how firm they're handled, will have to be showed again
and again that they can't get away with this or with that,--
they'll keep on a trying and if ever once they do put a bluff
thru there's most generally enough meanness in their system to
make 'em plum worthless.

And like I was saying with Smoky, "he remembered how that rope
had upset him that first day he was picketed to that log outside
the corral, and he wasn't hankering to be 'busted' that way
again."--That little horse had brains. If he was convinced a few
times he had the sense to realize it, but at the same time, _he_
_had_ to be showed, and more because it was part of his necessary
eddication than because of any meanness of his.

He was willing to learn but the teaching had to come from one who
could teach him. There was no meaness in Smoky, not an ounce of
it, he was honest clear thru; but meanness would develop if a
slip was made. He fought and bit and kicked, but Smoky was a wild
horse, and he was going only according to his instinct and more
to protect himself from the strange human.

That's the caliber of most range horses. Clint had handled many
of 'em and always won out with their confidence and turned 'em
over as broke with their spirit intact. He'd savvied Smoky the
minute he dabbed his rope on him that first time: that pony was
wild, wild as a horse or any animal can get, and he had the
strength to go with it; but Clint seen where that little horse
also had a mighty fine set of brains between them little pointed
ears of his.

He treated him like a grown up would treat a kid, a kid of the
kind that'd learn a lot if the chance showed up; and he missed no
chance to show that pony all he should know and how good he
wanted to be to him.

"Daggone it, Smoky" he'd say, "it's too bad you can't know
without I have to use a lot of ropes, as it is sometimes. I bet
you don't think I'm a friend of yours, none at all."

Clint was right. At first Smoky had took him as an enemy and
fought him according; then had come a time when he was willing to
trust him some, specially when Clint had come and untangled him
out of that long picket rope, talked to him, and rubbed his ears.
His heart had got over thumping so much when he'd see the cowboy
coming of evenings, and even tho the little horse didn't realize
it as yet, he'd got to expecting him.

Then, and just about when his liking for the cowboy was coming to
the top fast, something happened that'd make him wonder for a
spell if that cowboy was a friend or still an enemy. The
"sacking" he'd went thru in the corral had sort of jarred the
confidence that'd begin to sprout for the bowlegged crethure, and
then the way his head was jerked up out of his bucking spell with
the empty saddle, all had left him puzzled as whether to start in
and do some fighting or else be good and take his medecine.

Smoky had no way of knowing as yet what was expected of him, and
it was a ticklish time for him. It was right then that he'd have
to be handled just right and when the turning point for the good
or the bad would be decided on. But Clint knowed how the turn to
the good layed, and it was right there that he proceeded to bring
it out.

There was only one way to it and that was for Clint to show Smoky
he had to be good. The cowboy knowed Smoky had brains a plenty to
realize once he was showed, that he had to do just what he wanted
him to do, that of course would take a little time, the pony
would fight some more and want to be showed, and to keep him from
getting flustrated that horse would have to have his own way,
some.



CHAPTER VI

"THE SQUEAK OF LEATHER"


Twenty feet of rope is laying between the cowboy's hand and the
pony's head. The cowboy is standing there just watching and
smiling some at the surprised look that's in the pony's face,
that pony had just been stopped sudden in his bucking with an
empty saddle;--it was the first time a saddle had been on his
slick back and it was no wonder he tried to get out from under
that thing; nothing had ever clung there before.

"Now, you just take it easy for a spell, and keep your head up"
says that cowboy as he started walking towards the pony.--Legs
wide apart, a wild look in his eyes, and a snorting his surprise
Smoky watched him come; he didn't know whether to stand his
ground and start fighting or back away as the cowboy came.--On he
came, and as Smoky was seeing no sign of harm, he stood in his
tracks, watched, and waited. A hand touched him on the forehead
and moved on down his neck, the cowboy was a talking to him the
while, and pretty soon Smoky's heart wasn't thumping so hard no
more.

He was then led a little ways, and as he heard the squeak of
leather and felt the weight of the saddle with each step he took,
an awful hankering came to him to put his head down and try to
buck it off, but the cowboy was right there in front of him and
he didn't want to be stopped again and so sudden as he'd been
stopped that first time.

The other side of the corral was reached and there Clint turned
and rubbed Smoky on the ear. "Well, old boy, lets see how you're
going to behave when I get up in the middle of you."

Smoky watched the man reach for the latigo and felt the cinch
tighten up; a hump came in his back and which made the saddle set
near on end,--it was the hump that carried the punch in the buck,
and most likely Clint could of led the pony around some till the
hump wore down and his back straightened up again, but that rider
wasn't for taking the buck out of a bronc too quick. He believed
a good sensible horse should buck at the first few "settings" and
he wasn't the kind of rider that'd smother that natural feeling
and have it come out later, when the horse is supposed to be
broke gentle.

He let the hump be and never moved the pony out of his tracks;--
he knowed that just one move would be enough to start that pony
to exploding, and Smoky was set and just a waiting for that
signal to start. He watched the cowboy raise his chaps so the
belt wouldn't hinder his leg action, watched him pull his hat
brim down solid, and then he couldn't watch no more. Something
had come between him and his vision, it was the cowboy's thumb
which had layed over his left eyelid and pulled it down over his
eye--In the next second he felt a weight added on to that of the
saddle, and all of a sudden he could see again.

But what he did see left him stary eyed and paralized. For half a
minute he just stood like petrified. That cowboy had disappeared
from the side of him, and instead, there he was right in the
middle of his back and on that hunk of leather he'd been
hankering to shed off ever since it was put on there.

Instinct pointed out only one way for him to act,--it was telling
him that neither the human nor the leather belonged up there in
the middle of him that way, and that if he tried he could most
likely get rid of 'em. There was nothing else to do that he could
see, and right then he felt that he sure must do something.

His head went down, and a beller came out of him that said much
as "I want you"--Up went Smoky's withers followed by the hump
that made the saddle twist like on a pivot, and last came steel
muscles like shot out of the earth, and which carried the whole
mixed up and crooked conglameration of man and horse up in mid
air and seemed like to shake there for a spell before coming
down. All seemed heads and tails and made a picture of the kind
that was mighty hard to see, and still harder to figger out.

Saddle strings was a popping like on a whip lash, leather was a
squeaking, corrals shook as the hard hitting hoofs of the pony
hit the earth, and a dust was stirred that looked like a young
cloud. Smoky was scared, mad, and desperate. All the action,
strength, and endurance that was in him was brought out to
do its best. Not a hair on his hide was laying idle thru the
performance,--every muscle tightened and loosened in a way to
shake the weight on his back and make it pop.

Clint felt the muscles work even thru the saddle, and every part
of that pony which his legs touched seemed as hard as steel and
full of fast working bumps which came and went, twisted his
saddle under him, and made him wonder if it was going to stay. It
seemed like sometimes that Smoky was headed one way and his
saddle another,--he wasn't always sure of the whereabouts of that
pony's head; and in all his riding that's what he wanted to keep
track of most, cause losing track of a horse's head at them times
is something like riding blindfolded--a rider would prepare for
one kind of a jolt and meet another, which would cause things to
scatter considerable.

Clint was still straight up and on top when Smoky's hard jumps
finally dwindled down to crow-hops and then a stop. That pony was
needing wind mighty bad, and as his nostrils opened wide, was
taking in the necessary air, he felt a hand a rubbing along his
neck, and wild eyed, ears cocked back at the cowboy that was
still there, he stood and heard him talk.

"You done a mighty fine job, little horse," says Clint, "and I'd
been disappointed a lot not to've found that kind of spirit in a
horse like you."

If Smoky had been raised amongst humans like a dog and been with
'em steady that way, he'd of had a hunch or felt what Clint said
and meant. But Smoky was a wild horse of the flats and mountains,
and even tho the sound of Clint's tone and the feel of his hand
soothed him some, he would buck again and again. It was his
instinct to fight the human, and he would fight till that human
showed he could handle him and proved a friend.

That had to be done gradual, and Smoky had no way to know as yet
that man could be a friend of his, not while the breaking was
going on anyway, for thru that spell a horse is _made_ to do
things he sometimes don't want to do, and which all keeps down
the confidence that would come faster if that didn't have to be
done.

Smoky was doing some tall figgering as he stood there trembling
and wondering if there wasn't anything that he could get by with.
He'd been made to do things just as that cowboy pleased and he'd
found no say in the goings on, none at all. If he could only've
bucked him off that would of pleased him a lot, but the little
horse didn't know that he wouldn't of won anything by that;--he
didn't know he was on this earth for the purpose of the human and
that if he did throw one man another would climb him till finally
he'd have to give in and go thru a lot of grief the while.

Smoky felt a light slap on his neck. "Come on, young feller,"
says the cowboy. "Lets see you trot around the corral a while."

But Smoky bucked more than he trotted. The cowboy let him, and
when his head would come up he'd keep him on the go till finally
there seemed to be no buck in the horse at all.

"I reckon that'll be enough for you to-day" says Clint as he
headed Smoky for the side of the corral and made him face the
bars to a stop. He then reached for the pony's left ear and
twisted it some, just enough to keep that pony's attention on the
twist of that ear most while he got off.--

Clint touched the ground with his right foot, and keeping his
left in the stirrup, at the same time keeping close to the
horse's shoulder and out of the reach of his hind feet, he held
that position for a few seconds. Smoky was watching him, shaking
like a leaf and ready to paw the daylight out of the cowboy at
the first wrong move or sudden jab of a knee.

Clint wanted him to watch. This was part of the eddication, and
all that cowboy wanted to teach right then was for Smoky to stand
and not to go to acting up. Slow and easy, at the same time
having complete control of himself and his horse, Clint raised
himself up in the saddle again. It was done in a way that only
bronc busters know. Smoky never even felt the pull on the saddle
as the cowboy climbed on, and if that saddle hadn't even been
cinched it wouldn't of budged then, so neat it was done.

Clint climbed on and off a few times that way, Smoky stood and
shivered, scared, but willing it seemed like to take his
medicine. Maybe it'd come to his mind that there was no use
fighting that cowboy, or else he was getting tired--anyway that
was the last of it; Smoky felt the cinch loosen and then slow and
easy the saddle was pulled off. About that time he whirled and
faced the rider who was holding the saddle, he took a sniff at
the hunk of leather and snorted like to say, "Gee! I thought that
thing was on me for good."

The saddle was set to one side and the cowboy begin rubbing
Smoky's back with a gunny sack, and according to the way that
pony acted that felt mighty good, his upper lip stuck out and
twitched with every motion of the rubbing, and when Clint finally
quit, the little horse's action showed plain that he should do it
some more; Clint rubbed again.

"I'm afraid," he says as he grinned and rubbed, "that I'm
naturally going to spoil you. Here we just got thru with the
first saddling and you're beginning to look for favors already."

Smoky's picket grounds was moved to a fresh one for that night
and where the grass was tall, a plenty and green,--but somehow
his appetite wasn't at its best, and when the break of day come
there was very little sign (as Clint noticed) that the pony had
et at all. He'd just stood in one spot, looked like, and seemed
to've done tall wondering and figgering instead of feeding. He
was ganted up the same as if he'd been rode all that night, and
still there was no show of any appetite for the feed that was
under and all around him.

As Clint worked in the corral busy with other broncs he'd look
thru the bars for any show of interest in the little horse; he'd
look often but most every time that pony's position was about the
same, and if he did catch him with his head down he noticed how
Smoky was just nibbling at the feed, and not eating much.

Smoky was taking the change, from the life he'd led to what he
was now going thru, kinda hard, harder than the average wild
horse ever does; and Clint layed it that the little horse had
more brains than the average, more sensitive maybe, and more able
to realize.

"I guess I'd better lay off of him to-day," decides the cowboy,
as he noticed very little change in him even late that afternoon,
"he's having a hard time trying to figger things out as it is."

It was bright and early the next morning when Clint looked out of
the bunk house door and noticed Smoky out on the creek bottom. It
appeared that the little horse, after figgering and figgering,
had come to some sort of decision, and that done and settled had
went to eating again, for that's what he was doing when Clint
looked out,--Smoky was eating like he was trying to make up for
the time he'd lost, and he seemed all at peace with everything in
general.

The cowboy grinned, "I know what that son of a gun has decided
on," he remarked. "He's going to fight, and I see where I'm sure
due for a tossing from that pony to-day."

Clint done his day's work, and after riding and lining out nine
head of rough and kinky broncs, went to where Smoky was picketed
and led him into the corral where he'd been initiated a couple of
days before. He was some kind of a different horse than what he'd
been that day; his head was higher and more with just one
purpose. He didn't shy and snort at every little thing like he
did that first time, and Clint noticed that he never seemed to
see the saddle as it was eased on his back and cinched.

"I don't like the sound of them 'rollers' that's making that
noise in them nostrils of yours," he remarked; "they sound to me
like you meant business."

Smoky did mean business, and even tho Clint was doing
considerable kidding, he meant business too. He wasn't going to
let the little horse get away with anything, for he realized that
if he did it'd be harder than ever to persuade him to be good;
he'd have to be treated rough, and Clint didn't want to treat him
rough.

The cowboy seen the light in Smoky's eyes and understood it, he
understood his every action, and they all meant fight.

"I'm glad to see so much spirit in you old boy," he says as he
pulled his hat down, "but if you want to fight I'll have to fight
too, and here's hoping the best one of us wins;--let's go."

Smoky only shook his head a little as Clint put his hand on his
left eye and mounted, he didn't want to notice a little thing
like that, which was just as much a warning from him for that
cowboy to get set, set well and solid, for in this next
performance things was a going to pop worse than ever.

There's a big difference between the bucking that comes with the
first setting of a bronc and the bucking that comes with the
settings that follows afterwards on that same bronc. The first
time Smoky was rode he was just a plain scared pony, of course
his intentions was all to the good towards throwing that cowboy,
saddle and all, off, but he was too scared and desperate to try
and figger out how that should be done. He'd learned from that
first setting that plain bucking wouldn't faze that rider, he'd
have to use some science, and with a cool head, study out the
weak points the rider might have, and work on them weak points
till a shadow on the ground tells him the cowboy is _leaving_.

Smoky had learned that it wouldn't get him anything to stampede
hot headed into bucking like he did that first time, maybe that's
what he'd been studying on the last day or so. Anyway, he was
some cool horse, and when he "bowed his head" this time it was
all done deliberate and easy. He lined out with a few easy jumps
just to sort of feel out how that cowboy was a setting as a
preliminary, and with an eye back on all the movements of the
rider as he went, he layed his plans on just how to proceed and
get his man.

It was just when Clint seemed to be riding his easiest when
without warning Smoky "broke in two" and brought out some mighty
wicked saddle-twisting, and cowboy-loosening jumps; crooked,
high, and hard hitting was them jumps. It looked to the horse
like his man was loosened at the sudden turning of events and had
been shifted to one side a little,--and that's just what Smoky
was looking for to carry on the program he'd mapped out.

It was the first encouragement that pony'd got since he first
felt a rope on him, maybe he could get it over that cowboy yet.
He bucked all the harder from the new energy the signs of winning
brought him. No chance did he give so that the cowboy would ever
get back in the saddle and straight up, and every jump from then
on was used as a kind of leverage against the rider,--he bucked
in a circle and every time he'd hit the ground he was his whole
length back from where he'd started up.

The cowboy was well up on the fork of the saddle and still to one
side. Smoky bucked on, and cool as a cucumber in a mountain
stream, kept a watching and took care that he didn't buck back
under him. He was holding his own, and looked for signs of the
rider loosening some more, but no sign of that showed. The cowboy
was still to one side and well up in the saddle, but he sure hung
there, and with his left hand on the "Mecate" (hackamore rope) he
kept his right up in the air and fanned on the same as ever.

As the fight kept on and no show of the cowboy ever loosening up
any more was seen, Smoky begin to wonder. He'd tried different
tactics and with all his figgering and variety of sidewinding he
couldn't tear away from that hanging hunk of humanity. He was
getting tired, his lungs begin to call for air and pretty soon he
wasn't so cool no more.

All that was in him, science and everything, was brought out on a
few more earth shaking jumps, and when a glance back showed Smoky
the rider was still setting there, he got desperate again and
begin to see red. He bellered and at the same time forgot all
he'd studied on in the ways of getting his man.

The fight didn't last long after that, it was too furious and
unscientific. Smoky fought the air, the earth, and everything in
general,--nothing in perticular was his aim, and pretty soon he
lined out in long easy crowhops and then a standstill.

Clint climbed off as Smoky stood spraddle-legged and took in the air.
The little horse never seemed to notice him and in a hazy way felt the
rider's hand rubbing around his ears and straightening out his mane.

"I knowed you'd give me a tossing to-day," says Clint.

And there was one thing Smoky didn't know: it was that no time
during the fight did the cowboy feel he was losing his saddle; a
setting to one side the way he had been was just a long-staying
holt of his, something like a half nelson with the wrastler.

Poor Smoky had lost again, but in a way he'd won,--he'd won the
heart of a cowboy, cause, thru that fight that cowboy's feelings
was for the little horse. He'd seen, understood, and admired the
show of thinking qualities and the spirit which was Smoky's.

The idea might be got, on account of Smoky being the steady
loser, that his spirit would get jarred and finally break, but if
anybody thinking so could of seen that horse the next day that
idea would of been scattered considerable. His time on the picket
rope had been spent on more thinking and figgering, and the way
he went after the tall grass showed he meant to be in shape to
carry thru whatever the new scheme was.

And some would of thought it queer to've seen how Smoky, the
steady loser in the contest, seemed to hold no grudge or hate
against the winning cowboy. As it was, that pony seemed to
welcome that human a lot as he walked towards him the next
morning, and the way he rubbed his head against the shoulder of
that smiling rider showed that the fights in the corral had got
to be some friendly. Both was mighty serious, and both meant to
win in them fights, but soon as they was over and the dust
cleared there was a feeling the likes of when two friends have an
argument; when the argument comes to an end both the loser and
winner are ready to grin, shake hands, and be friends again.

Smoky had lost out twice in trying to dodge out from under his
man, but he was nowheres near convinced as yet that it couldn't
be done. The third time Clint climbed him that pony bucked harder
than ever and that cowboy just sat up there and let him. Clint
had whipped _some_ horses for bucking that way, but he'd whipped
them because it was natural orneriness that made 'em buck. With
Smoky it was different, there was no meanness in him so
far,--that pony was confident that nothing could set him once he
got onto the hang of knowing how to buck real well, and all he
wanted was to be showed for sure that Clint could really set
there and ride him thru his worst that way. After that was done
he'd most likely quit.

The first couple of times Smoky was rode and after he'd quit his
bucking, there hadn't been much more to it excepting that Clint
wauld just run him around a bit and turn him a few times till the
hump was well down on that pony's back. Smoky had got to thinking
that was all would ever come of being corraled and saddled, and
so, he was some surprised, when after the bucking spell was over
at that third setting, to see the corral gate opened wide, the
cowboy on him again, and heading him for open country.

Smoky took to the high ridges like a duck takes to water, he
trotted out like a good horse, and then was put into a long lope.
Covering territory felt mighty good to the little horse for a
change and he wasn't caring much where the cowboy lined him out
to. For a spell he'd forgot the weight on his back, his ears was
straight ahead, and the hand he felt on his neck only reminded
some that somebody was with him.

He was needing that change after being bested again like he'd
been that third time. Clint had won once more and Smoky was a lot
in favor of something, most anything, to drive off the feeling
he'd got in losing. He was taking advantage of the run in that
way and sashayed at a good clip. All went fine, till, of a sudden
a jack rabbit scared out of his hiding place jumped up and right
under Smoky's nose,--he shied straight up and to one side, and at
the same time he was scared more by the wing of Clint's chap
which had curled up and slapped along his shoulder. Away he went
to bucking once again.

The first few jumps was mighty wicked but they didn't last; he'd
already had his buck out not long before and pretty soon he
straightened into a lope once again. Clint let him lope a ways
then turned him and headed him back to the corrals, stopped him
there, turned him a few times and started him out a ways only to
turn him and bring him back again. That went on for a few
minutes, and then Smoky was unsaddled and put on the picket rope
once more.

The run had tired Smoky a little and give him an appetite. He
didn't do so much figgering on how to get his man that night, and
instead he grazed more, rested some, and even slept a little.
When he was led to the corral the next day and the saddle put on
he even neglected to watch the cowboy and begin to show interest
in the broncs that was in another corral. His ambitions hadn't
allowed him to do that before, but somehow, things had changed.
--Figgering ways and means of throwing off that rider had got to
be tiresome, specially when nothing but disappointment was ever
got by it; and besides that saddle and man was getting so they
 wasn't so bad to stand up under no more.

But as neutral as Smoky showed and felt, that little son of a gun
bucked again. Of course there was nothing in his bucking that was
so wicked as it had been in them first three saddlings; it was
more that he felt he should buck _some_; it made him feel better,
and besides he was wanting exercise; but he raised the dust and
pounded the earth in good shape even at that, and that play of
his would of throwed many a man.

Another run like the one of the day before, a few turnings and
teachings on the feel of the rein, and Smoky was thru for another
day. He was getting used to the lay of the program Clint had set,
and the new game that was brought on right along as he was rode
begin to draw the pony's interest.

Then one day, the cowboy begin dragging a rope on him; he let it
drag quite a ways, and even tho Smoky watched it mighty close so
it wouldn't circle around his legs and throw him like most ropes
always did, it didn't worry him much. Pretty soon Clint coiled
the rope up and made a loop which he started whirling in the
air,--the whirling was slow and easy at first and done with a
small loop. Smoky looked back all interest and snorted a little;
he wondered what that rope was doing up there and what Clint was
up to.

But nothing happened only that the whirling kept up, the loop was
gradually made bigger and then it was throwed on the ground a
ways in front of him. Smoky shied and snorted and the coils shot
out, straightened, and all of it pulled up again by the cowboy;
but he didn't try to run away from it, he hadn't forgot the
eddication he'd received from the long soft picket rope. He'd
learned from it that it didn't pay to stampede when a rope was
around, on account that them ropes had a way of stopping him that
couldn't at all be argued with.

Loops was made, throwed out, and drug in again one right after another.
They went one side one time, and another side the next, then in front
and back, till Smoky begin to lose fear no matter which way the rope
went or how it coiled up. It was at the point when he was beginning to
lose interest in the game that Clint roped a small bush. The rope
tightened on it and Smoky pulled,--he pulled more in wonder what was
holding him than with the idea of what he should do, but anyway the bush
came out and headed straight for Smoky as it did, he struck at it and
would of left from there, but Clint held him and made him face it.

Smoky shook like a leaf as slow but sure the cowboy kept a
pulling the bush towards him, he struck again and snorted as it
touched his front feet, and he bucked a couple of jumps when he
felt it up along his shoulder, but there was no getting away from
it; the way that bush moved, it looked like something vicious to
Smoky, and when Clint took the rope off of it, and held it out
under the pony's nose for him to see what it was the little horse
near showed signs of shame for getting scared.

Loose stumps, branches, pieces of old wagons, and everything that
could be drug or moved was roped,--anything that was light enough
was pulled up for Smoky to investigate, and each time he was
showed that he'd been shying and fighting for no reason, till
finally, nothing could be found that brought any more than a
snort from him. An old coal oil can was then roped and brought up
a rattling under Smoky's nose, but he even stood his ground at
that.

He was learned to pull on the rope and made to drag things as
heavy as a yearling critter. Then gradually Clint made him keep
the rope tight and hold it that way till a couple of light jerks
on it made him give slack. All that took time, and the cowboy
learned him only one thing each day, sometimes very little of
that one thing,--but as the days went by it all accumulated to a
lot.

It done Clint's heart good to watch the way Smoky was taking to
things, his little ears worked back and forth, and with his eyes
he never missed a move that went on; his nostrils quivered at all
that was new, and the cowboy was noticing with a glad feeling
that the pony was putting a lot of trust in him. A word from that
cowboy, or a touch from his hand, was getting to mean a lot when
that pony was dubious or at the point of scaring at some new
happening.

Clint hunted up a bunch of cattle one day and acquainted Smoky
with some pointers in the handling of the critters. He'd haze the
horse in the bunch, cut out some fat kinky yearling, and make him
put his interest on that yearling only. All was a puzzle to Smoky
at first, and he had no idea of what he should do, but Clint give
him his time, and coaching him along it wasn't but a few days
when the little horse understood some of what was wanted of him.
In the meantime the teachings with the rope wasn't left behind;
that went along with working cattle, and once in a while Clint
would snare some big calf and make Smoky keep his nose along that
rope while the calf circled, bucked, and bellered.

Smoky showed signs of liking all that went on. He took interest
in it the same as a kid would to some new game,--he liked to
chase the wild eyed cow, turn her when she didn't want to be
turned, and put her where she didn't want to be put; he liked to
hold the rope tight on one of the critters and feel that he was
the one that was keeping 'er down. It all struck him as a kind of
a game where every animal before him had to do as he and the
cowboy wished.

He was all for catching on and not a nerve in him was idle as
Clint would take him of evenings and ride him out for a spell,
and chase, cut out, or rope at the critter. Them goings on had
his mind occupied and the fact that he'd figger and think on the
subject between times was proved by the way he'd go at things in
a decided and knowing how way, when the day before the same thing
had left him puzzled and wondering.

That little work he was getting and the all heart interest he was
finding in it, had settled him to the big change from the free
life he'd led with the old buckskin horse and the bunch of mares
and colts,--his mammy was even forgotten, and instead there'd
sprouted in him something that made him take a liking for the
long lanky cowboy that came to see and play with him every day.
He'd got to finding a lot of pleasure in doing just what that
cowboy wanted him to do, and when that was done there was a
hankering in him to do just a little bit more.

That's the way Clint wanted to keep him; just a hankering to do
more would get results, and he was careful to see that the little
horse didn't tire on the work. He wanted to make it play for him
and keep it that way as long as he could, for he knowed that was
the way to keep Smoky's heart and spirit all in one hunk and
intact.



CHAPTER VII

SMOKY SHOWS HIS FEELINGS


Jeff Nicks, cow foreman of the Rocking R outfit, was riding
along and headed for the horse camp where Clint was breaking
horses. Spring works was over and Jeff thinking it was a good
time for him to do a little lone riding and kinda visit the camps
of the outfit, had left his straw boss in charge of the wagon,
caught his best horse and strung out to cover some of the Rocking
R territory.

It was a hot day, not a breath stirred the air; and as the old
cowman rode he lifted his hat often to kinda let a fresh supply
of atmosphere come in underneath. His big brown horse was
covering ground in a running walk, and Jeff keeping him down to
that gate wasn't passing a coulee nor a draw without a glance in
it and then to the skyline above. It was his habit as a cowman to
keep his eyes on the job while riding, and for the good of the
company or his own, nary a thing had ever escaped his vision
unless it was just too far for that vision to reach.

It was as he was riding along natural that way, that he noticed a
thin streak of dust to the right of him quite a ways; that dust
wasn't made by anything traveling fast, and even tho it reached
up in the air good and high Jeff could see at a glance that the
dust was stirred by something dragging.

He stopped his horse so as to get a steadier view, and pretty
soon he could make out the shape of ahorse underneath that dust;
something that looked like a turned pack was fastened or hanging
on to him and dragging alongside.

Jeff had seen many happenings on the range between man and horse
and from that figgered to always investigate anything that
suspicioned of something gone wrong, and to investigate quick.--
He put his horse in a high lope. Down draws, over rolling hills,
and acrost dog towns he went all at the same speed, and pretty
soon he comes to where there's only a small ridge between him
and what he wanted to investigate.

It was then that he figgered it best to take it slow till he'd
seen just what was up; if some rider had got caught in his
riggin' some way as a horse fell, and that horse was wild and
unbroke, riding in on a high lope would only make things worse
and cause the horse to stampede.--Nobody knowed that better than
Jeff did.

He got off his horse, walked a ways, and peeking thru the tall
grass seen the whole goings on at a glance. Fifty yards below him
was a mouse colored horse,--looked like a half broke bronc to him
on account of the way the hackamore was rigged,--but that horse
didn't act like half broke. He was going thru a performance that
most gentle broke range horses wouldn't put up with, and that was
to half carry and half drag a man, _and on the wrong side_.

Jeff recognized that man as his "bronc peeler" Clint, and he was
all for rushing down to see what had happened and help, but he
held back,--he wasn't sure but what the mouse colored horse would
scare and run away at the sight of him, and he couldn't tell but
what Clint's hands was fastened to the saddle horn the way he was
hanging on.

He could see there was still life in the rider, but if the man
was conscious he wasn't showing very good sense by hanging on the
wrong side of a half broke horse that way. Still, as he watched,
Jeff begin to wonder. He noticed for one thing that the horse was
headed straight for camp, Clint's camp, and then there was
another thing he noticed and which made him wonder and watch more
than ever--The mouse colored gelding wasn't dragging his man, he
was more kinda helping him along, seemed like. Each step that
horse took was with care and in favor of the man alongside; the
pony watched every move that man made, and if the steps sorta
lagged or hesitated he stopped or slowed down till the man braced
up some and went again.

Jeff's mouth was wide open with wonder as he watched the goings
on, and when a little while later the gelding happened along a
big rock, and seen him stop while the man tried to use the rock
to get from it up in the saddle, Jeff wondered some more.

"By japers, I've seen and handled thousands of horses," says
Jeff, "but I never thought any horse ever had that much sense."

The old cowman watched for near a half an hour while Clint tried
to get on his horse. He seen the horse stand there, all patience
and a helping the best he could, and finally, with the help of
the rock, the favoring of the horse, and the little strength the
man had, and all put together, Clint was setting in the saddle at
last. The hackamore reins was hanging loose; nothing was holding
that pony from bucking, stampeding, or doing anything he pleased,
but he stepped slow and easy, and ears cocked ahead, packed his
man to camp with the same care any human would take.

Jeff got on his horse and keeping well behind followed. What he'd
just seen had got him to the point where he begin a talking to
himself, his horse, and the country around.

"Yessir, by japers, and he let Clint get on him from the wrong
side too, why this daggone old gentle horse I'm riding now
wouldn't let me do that--But then, maybe I better not to too
sure about that, I'm beginning to believe from what I've just
seen that there's things going on in horses' think tanks that's
mighty surprising and which don't come out till the right time
shows up."

A couple of hours and the camp was reached. Jeff looked around
the big corrals as he rode closer for signs of Clint and the
mouse colored bronc, and sure enough, there the both of 'em
are,--Clint is still in the saddle and to all appearance
unconscious; the gelding is standing by the corral gate, still,
and waiting.

The cowman rode on towards 'em, but he soon had to stop, for he
noticed as the gelding sees him how by that pony's action, he
wasn't for standing in one spot no longer at the sight of a
strange rider coming on him that way. Jeff had to maneuvre around
considerable to keep that horse from hightailing it. The only way
he could do it was to go back the way he came till out of sight,
once there he circled around till he came up on the camp from the
opposite side, the corrals and a long shed was between him and
the half broke horse with his unconscious rider.

Jeff left his horse out of sight, and hugging close to the shed
made his way to where the mouse colored gelding had been; a peek
thru a hole in the wall showed him the horse was still there, and
Clint still in the saddle. How to proceed from then on was a sort
of ticklish proposition. Jeff didn't want the pony to get scared,
run away and throw the hurt rider, and still, he couldn't let the
rider stay where he was.

He had to take a chance and do the best he could. Around the
corner of the shed he came, and slow and easy, showed himself to
the wild eyed gelding; he talked to him, and that seemed to help
some, for the little horse stood his ground. _Stood his ground_
is correct, but Jeff had hesitated somehow from coming any
closer,--he noticed a light in that pony's eyes which warned him
plain to keep his distance, and even tho Jeff was half peeved and
half leary at the stand the pony had took, he couldn't help but
admire the show of liking that half broke gelding had for the
rider that was still unconscious in the saddle, and laying with
his head on the pony's bowed neck.

The horse's actions had all been a puzzle to Jeff at first, and
as he finally understood, it all left him mighty surprised and in
a trance with wonder. He'd expected that horse to start running
away at the sight of him, but instead, he was showing fight. The
pony wasn't wanting to go no further with the hurt rider, he
wasn't going to trust no strange human with that helpless pardner
of his.

Two months or more had passed since Clint and Smoky had met in
the dust of the bare corral. In that time the man and horse'd had
fights; some had been mighty wicked, and the wild horse would of
killed the man too if the chance had come, but all thru them
fights the man had won,--slow and easy, but he'd won. Then
gradually Smoky begin to get confidence in the human, and then a
liking; he'd got to looking for his company and would nicker with
a glad feeling as he'd see that human come towards him of
evenings, and he'd go the length of his picket rope to meet him.

Steady good treatment from the rider, no matter what the horse
done, had won that pony's heart, till the little horse could near
be seen smiling with the happy feeling that was his every time
Clint came, saddled him, and rode him out for a little play with
the rope and critter.

That's the way Smoky's feelings had come to be for the bow legged
rider, and taking all as was, it's no wonder the horse showed
fight when a strange human appeared. In his life Smoky had seen
no other but Clint; he knowed _him_, but he didn't know the
others, and he had no more love for them than he had when he was
first run in from his free range. Them others was still enemies
to him, and right then when that pony felt his pardner was
depending on him most, he was sure ready to paw the daylight out
of that stranger if he came any closer. He was his enemy, and
according to his way of thinking, he was or should be Clint's
enemy too.

Jeff stood there figgering for quite a spell a trying to digest
and believe what that pony showed. It couldn't come to him to
hurt or kill such a horse so as to get the man, and he'd just
decided to get his rope, throw a loop over his head and snub him
close to the corral, when the rider begin to show signs of life.

"Come to, Clint," hollered the cowman as he noticed the rider
move, "and get off that horse."

Clint raised his head some at the sound of the voice, and as Jeff
kept a speaking to him he made a big effort to understand and try
to do as he was told. Pain showed in his face as he tried to
straighten himself in the saddle, and as Jeff feared that the
rider would lose consciousness again he hollered at him not to
try to straighten up, but just slide off and hang on.

With a lot of pain and time and coaching from Jeff, Clint finally
managed to raise one leg over the cantle of the saddle and let
himself slide to the ground. Smoky stood still as a statue and as
solid, his eyes was on Jeff with a steady warning for him to keep
his distance--and Jeff did.

"Hang on to the saddle," coached Jeff, "try and get the horse
thru the gate in the corral, and I'll close the gate on him."

That was done in time, and as the gate was closed Clint's hands
went limp and he fell to the ground. Lucky it was that Jeff could
reach him thru the corral bars, but he had to do considerable
manoeuvreing even then to get the cowboy thru and under so as not
to stir Smoky. And it was a mighty good thing for Jeff as he
picked Clint up and started towards the house that there was bars
high and strong between him and that pony, for as high and strong
as that corral was Jeff worried some and, looking back over his
shoulder as he went, wondered if it would hold him.

The sun had sunk away, and dark had come before Clint came to
well enough so things was plain to him and he could talk. Jeff
had made him as comfortable as was possible, boiled some "jerky"
and made a strong broth which he was holding under Clint's nose
for him to sniff at.

That cowboy sniffed, looked around, and then said, "where's
Smoky?"

"If you mean that mouse colored fighting son of a gun of a horse
you was on," says Jeff, "why he's in the corral, and a fretting
his head that I'm going to eat you up."

Clint couldn't quite get the meaning of that just then, and he
asked, "I wonder if you wouldn't go take the saddle off of him
and put him on the picket rope where he'd get something to eat.
He's gentle, and you can handle him easy."

Jeff snorted and laughed, "gentle,---? I wouldn't try to handle
him if you'd give me this whole outfit, I'm not enough of a bronc
fighter no more, and that ain't all. Thai pony is just a
hankering for me to stick my beezer thru that corral."

Smoky circled around the corral not at all minding the saddle
that was on him; he wasn't caring for any grass either, he was
too peeved and restless. If Clint had been right side up and
able, things would of been different and Smoky would of hardly
even noticed the stranger.--There seems to be a heap of
difference in the feelings of any thinking animal when a pardner
is sick or dying,--the little horse knowed as well as any human
that something had went wrong with his pardner, and the
appearance of the stranger at such a time was worrying him.

The next day was well along and the sun getting high, when Jeff
helped Clint on his feet and half carried him towards the corral
where Smoky had put in the night. Clint staggered on alone from
the gate and the little horse nickering came to meet him,--his
ears was all ahead and with his eyes a shining; he looked all
interest and like he wanted to ask questions. He then spotted
Jeff, and at the sight of him, his expression changed, his eyes
showed fire, and his ears layed back on his neck.

"Well, I'll be daggoned" says Clint as he noticed the horse's
actions. He looked back at the old cowman and grinned, wondering,
--but the old cowman wasn't grinning any. Jeff figgered it best
for him to vanish for a spell. Smoky was unsaddled, and put on
good feed and water, which all seemed to take Clint a powerful
lot of time; but he finally showed up and Jeff helped him back to
the house.

It was on the way over that Clint begin to speak, and on a
subject that'd been on his mind for a long time. "You know,
Jeff," he says, "I think the time has come for me to quit riding
broncs, I feel like I better quit, specially after this last
that's happened to me."

"What _did_ happen anyway?" asks Jeff.

"It was all on account of a fool cow," starts Clint, "she'd
showed signs of wanting to leave the country soon as she seen me
riding up on her, and being she was good and fast, I figgered
it'd be a good time to line Smoky out after her and let him turn
'er over a few times. I throwed my rope but the loop didn't land
good, it just sorta sailed in front of her, and she stepped in
it. About that time I jerked up my slack and I jerked it too
hard. Down went the critter all in a heap and sudden, so sudden
that with the speed Smoky was going he couldn't stop in time, and
first thing we knowed we both was straddle the critter.

"But she didn't stay down long, she got up just at the wrong time
and just right to yank Smoky's front feet from under him, raise
him up in the air with me on top, and just turned us a couple of
somersets before we landed on the other side.

"I didn't know much more after that, till now, I just sorta felt
a weight on my back, and that was all. Maybe I got under Smoky
somehow as we fell, but I think it's that fool cow that stepped
on me and separated me from my thoughts.

"I'll most likely be all right in a few days, but I recognize
this ailing. I got hurt a few years ago from an ornery black
horse I was breaking for the Three C's, and being that I don't
want this ailing to come back with me to stay, I figger I better
quit riding rough ones. There's other parts of me that's
hankering for me to quit too, and if you'll let me join the boys
at the wagon, I'm mighty willing that somebody else gets my job
here."

Clint was quiet for a spell, and then pretty soon he goes on,
"But there's one favor I want to ask, Jeff, if you'll let me stay
with the outfit, I want to ask that you let me keep Smoky in my
string and as long as I'm with the company."

What the cowboy had just said come from what he'd figgered,
thought out, and worried on, ever since he'd first set eyes on
Smoky. Clint liked all horses, maybe a little too much, but even
at that he liked Smoky still more. The fear that somebody else
would lay claim to the horse'd had him doing some tall thinking.
He knowed that as long as he was breaking horses his work would
come with raw broncs only and all half broke horses would be took
away from him as fast as he'd turn 'em out. Smoky would had to go
too.

And that's where the hitch came. He figgered he'd have to quit
breaking horses and go to riding the range, and take the big
chance that the horse might be took away from him even then. He'd
noticed how Jeff had stood, watched, and admired Smoky; and if
signs of a human wanting anything right bad ever showed, there
was never no signs more visible than Clint had seen on Jeff's
features when the horse was in sight.

There'd been only one way out for the cowboy, and he'd took
it.--There was a worried look on his face as he glanced at the
foreman and waited for him to answer, but Jeff didn't seem to
want to answer right then, and instead he asked:

"How long have you had that horse up, Clint?"

"Two months and maybe a little over," says Clint, wondering some
at the question.

"Wasn't there a couple of boys here about a month ago to get all
the broncs you'd started?"

"Yes."

"Well then, why didn't you let 'em have that horse Smoky? He was
as well broke then as any of the broncs the boys came after,
wasn't he?"

Clint begin to take interest in looking at the wall of the bunk
house about that time. He grinned a little, and finally he
answered:

"Well, Jeff, I guess you know why."

Jeff did know why, and knowed it a plenty. What he'd seen going
on between Smoky and the cowboy the day before and that morning
had already answered why Clint had hid the horse when the boys
came to haze away the broncs he'd "started." The foreman grinned
back at the layed up rider and placed a hand on his shoulder, the
same as to say that he understood.

"As long as I'm with this outfit," he says, "and which from all
indications will be a long time, you're mighty welcome to join
the wagon as one of my riders. You'll be getting 'top-hand' wages
too, Clint, the best string of ponies I can put together; and as
for Smoky, why--I sure would like that horse."

Clint's heart fluttered up his throat and came near choking him--
"Yep! I'd sure like to have him" went on the foreman "but after
thinking it all over, I figger that horse really belongs to you
more than he does to the company or me. He's a one man horse and
you're the one man, Clint, and even if the horse took a liking to
me, which I know wont happen, I'll sure never want to take him
away from you--not after what I've seen."

Clint had underfiggered considerable when he'd said how he
thought he'd be all right again in a few days. A week passed and
very little strength had gathered from his hips up. His back felt
as broke, and he had no power to straighten up again once he'd
stoop. He couldn't even pick up a spur.

A new rider came one day and took up Clint's work where he'd left
it. From that time on Clint hung around the corrals a talking and
watching the new "hand" ride, and when he wasn't by the corrals,
he could be seen in the shade of the big willows in the creek
bottom where Smoky was picketed.

Clint had looked at Smoky in a new way since Jeff had come and
left. The visit of the old cowboy had brought out things in that
little horse which Clint hadn't dreamed of ever being in any
horse. He'd been mighty surprised, and then sort of proud that he
could raise such a feeling in the gelding. The horse was good as
his too,--that put the cap on his worries of losing him, and all
was well.

A month went by, the round-up wagons was stringing out for the
fall works, and the cow with the big "weaner" calf was hunting a
hole. There was twenty-two riders with Jeff Nick's wagon, and
amongst 'em a grinning from ear to ear at some joke a cowboy had
sprung was Clint, and riding Smoky.

Long days of rest had put that cowboy in shape to ride, but not
to ride broncs, and when he at last felt that he could make a
hand at riding "circle," "herd," and "night guard" Smoky had been
saddled and rode to the home ranch, where the wagon was to start
from.

Smoky'd had a long month's rest before Clint saddled and rode him
out that morning, and even tho the rider looked O.K. again to the
little horse, there was a feel from the hackamore rein that as
much as asked him not to buck. He'd bucked that day when Clint
had met too much cow, and far as that goes, he'd bucked some at
every saddling, but as the cowboy started him out for open
country and the home ranch that morning he was made to feel that
he should keep his head up for once and line out without a kink.

The home ranch had been reached a couple of days later, and
there's where Smoky'd got his first look at a busy cow outfit's
main camp. Cowboys was everywhere, and more of 'em than he could
keep track of; big corrals full of horses, and more horses under
the big sheds. Wagons and tents, and when the round-up cook
rushed out of a log house to one side and pranced up to try and
shake hands with Clint, Smoky let out a snort and shied out of
reach.

"Daggone it, Clint," says that hombre, "I was told you'd quit
riding broncs--what in samhill do you call that spooky thing
you're setting on now?"

"Some horse," answers Clint, grinning.

Smoky felt some easier when he was finally unsaddled and turned
in amongst the other saddle horses. He took a good roll, shook
himself, and proceeded to get acquainted. It didn't worry him
none that very few of the ponies seemed to want his company and
he was mighty busy going from one of the big corrals into another
and giving 'em all the once over. He finally run acrost a bay
gelding which seemed some familiar, and Smoky must of seemed the
same to that gelding too for both of 'em started to show interest
at once and came to meet one another.

Necks bowed, they touched nostrils, some explaining and
understanding must of went on, cause it wasn't but a few minutes
later when each was scratching the other's neck like two
brothers--and that's what they was, _brothers_. The bay horse was
none other than the little colt, growed up, and which his mammy
had brought in the bunch one day over three years before.

Signs showed where the saddle had been on his back too. A cowboy
had run him in a couple of weeks before and passed the remark as
he piled his rope on him that, "This little bay horse sure showed
the makings of a cowhorse."

Jeff had agreed, and that's how come Smoky found him in amongst
the saddle horses that day. He'd showed some of how he'd took a
_natural_ liking for the bay, and if one didn't recognize a
brother in the other the way they went at scratching each other's
withers couldn't of meant much.

It was thru an intermission at wither scratching that Smoky seen
Clint open the outside gate of the corral and walk in. Alongside
of him was Jeff Nicks who'd come along to point out Clint's
string of ponies. Smoky watched them two for quite a spell; he
watched Jeff the most, but pretty soon went to scratching his
brother's withers again. Clint was all right now and well able to
take care of himself, he must of thought--Anyway there wasn't the
feeling in him that Clint needed any protection.

Clint had come to see him that evening, and he'd noticed as his
pardner came that some of the cowboys was watching him from the
next corral. He looked over Clint's shoulder at 'em and sent out
a long whistling snort.

"I'm glad Clint didn't break all the broncs like he did that one"
remarked one of the boys as he seen the fight in that pony's
eyes.

"Yep!" says another, "he sure made a one man horse out of him."

Smoky was turned out in the big pasture that night with the other
horses. Him and his brother paired off soon as they was out of
the corrals and fed together till daybreak brought a rider on the
sky line who corraled 'em all for the new day's work.

That day's work started early. Sun up found all the boys on their
horses, the chuck wagon, bed wagon and wood wagon teams was all
hooked on and ready to start at a wave of the hand from Jeff.
Jeff waved, and away all went thru the big gates leading out of
the home ranch, three wagons strung out, a "remuda" (saddle
bunch) of two hundred saddle horses followed, and on the "swing"
(sides) of the whole outfit twenty-two riders, riding good and
bad horses, loped along--The fall round up had started.



CHAPTER VIII

SMOKY STARTS OUT


The first day of the fall round-up was to Smoky awhole lot like
the first day of school to the kid of the settlement, only, Smoky
was full grown and his brain full developed. His eyes stayed wide
open and worked with his ears so that nothing of interest would
be missed.

There was so much that was strange and which kept his senses on
the jump. The big wagons with the four and six horse teams done a
lot of spooky rattling as they followed the pilot, sometimes on a
high lope, across the rolling prairie, over benches and down
draws. Then trailing along close behind the thumping of hoofs of
many ponies, the remuda, made a sound which hinted everything to
Smoky, everything from a stampede on up, and if it hadn't been
for the hand that once in a while was felt on his neck, and the
voice which he heard and knowed so well, the little horse would
of sure left a streak of dust and away from all that confusion of
wagons and men.

There was too many riders around him. They all kept too close,
and once in a while as the outfit sashayed on towards the first
camp grounds and some bronc would bust out a bucking and a trying
to shed off a cowboy, Smoky felt a lot like doing the same. But
always, and whenever he felt like "kettling" the most, Clint's
hand and voice was there to quiet him down. That hand and voice
worked the same as to prove to Smoky, that as long as Clint was
around close there was nothing for him to fear.

As the outfit rambled on, Clint gradually reined Smoky to one
side till he was well away and where he would feel more at ease
to watch without fear all what the layout had to show that was
strange. Smoky's ears then perked up at a different angle, and as
Clint talked to him that spooky looking outfit lining out acrost
the range got to look less spooky and more interesting.

Smoky followed the outfit and watched it till the sun was well up
in the middle of the sky, then the pilot raised his hand, made a
circle and the wagons followed him to a standstill. A dry camp
was made and the cook had the pots to working a few minutes after
the outfit had come to a stop. The rope corrals was strung out in
the wink of an eye and the remuda run in.

Smoky had watched the whole proceedings with a lot of interest,
the many horses, men, and all had him to using his eyes and ears
to the limit, and the low snorts he'd let out every once in a
while as he turned to watch all that went on, was as plain as
talk, that for excitement this sure had everything he'd ever seen
before beat to a frazzle.

"Come and get it, you Rannies!" It was the cook's holler for the
riders to come and eat. About then Smoky seen Clint headed
towards him and where he'd been left picketed. A little rub back
of the ear and Smoky was led to the rope corral, unsaddled, and
turned in with the remuda.

"Have a good roll, Smoky horse," says Clint as he turned him
loose, "and don't let no ornery pony get the best of you."

Smoky looked back at Clint for a spell the same as to ask him
where he was going, and as the cowboy stood there watching the
little horse moseyed on and disappeared amongst the saddle bunch.

The "round-up pan" was filling up with the tin cups and plates as
the cowboys, thru eating, was making their way towards their
saddles by the rope corrals. A hard twist catch rope was
unbuckled from them saddles, loops was shook out, and pretty soon
them same loops begin a sailing and a reaching out like a mighty
long arm for the horse each cowboy picked out for that afternoon's
ride.

Smoky seen and heard the hiss of them loops as they sailed on
over past him to settle around some other pony's neck, and even
tho all was done quiet so none of the horses would start running
too much, Smoky had a mighty restless feeling whenever them snaky
ropes appeared. Clint hadn't roped him only once and that was
when he was a raw bronc, but he hadn't forgot the feeling that'd
been his when that same rope had caught him, stretched him out,
and left him plumb helpless.

His brain was near stampeding with him at the sound of so many
ropes, and once in a while when he'd spot some strange rider
carrying one of them hated coils the sight made him hit for the
middle of the herd,--but even there he wasn't safe, for there was
no telling how far them ropes could reach.

It was in winding around and thru the thick of the herd, that
Smoky found himself on the edge and crowded against the big rope
cable which was the corral. The sight that met his eye there had
him wanting to hide back in the middle of the herd once again,
but he had no chance, the herd had him wedged where he couldn't
move and as it was he had to stare wild eyed at all that was
there for him to see.

A few feet away was half a dozen riders saddling up, and that's
what kettled Smoky,--the few feet that was between him and them
strangers was too close for comfort. He was just about to try
another grand rush to get back into the middle of the herd when
the sound of something familiar made him hesitate. It was the
ring of a spur rowel, a ring he'd heard often, and pretty soon
Smoky spots Clint only a few feet away from him and leading a
strange horse to his saddle.

Smoky stuck his head and neck out far as he could and nickered at
the sight of the cowboy, and that cowboy having his attention
some other direction at the time was made to turn mighty quick as
the well known nicker was heard.--There was all in Smoky's looks
and nicker that seemed to say "Pardncr, I need help."

Clint laughed, but the laugh wasn't of the kind that comes from
a joke.

"What's the matter, little horse?"

But Clint knowed what was the matter, he could hear the thump
thump of Smoky's heart as he came nearer, and feel the throb of
it as he layed a hand on his neck. He rubbed on the slick hide a
spell, and that cowboy experienced a mighty great feeling when he
noticed as he stayed, that gradually the pony's heart beats begin
to slow down and soon was behaving normal again.

Smoky watched the cowboy leave him to go to where his saddle was
laying on the ground out a ways. He watched him put the saddle on
the strange horse, and when Clint came back leading the horse and
finished saddling by Smoky, that pony nipped at the cowboy's
chap' leg the same as to say "Stick around a spell."

Clint did stick around for a spell. He wasted a lot of good
company time fooling with the latigos and seeing that his rope
was coiled up neat, and even tho he knowed that as a good cowboy
he should been helping tearing down camp, he stuck by the corral
and Smoky till the last rider had caught, saddled, and rode his
horse away. The remuda was let out then, the wrangler circled the
bunch and started grazing 'em till the wagons started again for
that night's grounds.

Smoky was hazed along and lost in the big horse herd, Clint
watched him and when he couldn't see him no more started coiling
up the big cable, which was the rope corral used on open range,
and with the help of another rider put it in one of the wagons
where it'd be easy reached again.

It'd been less than an hour since the cook had stopped his team
and jumped off the wagon to cook the cowboys' noon bait, and now
he was up on the wagon again and waiting there for the boys to
finish hooking up his team and hand him the "ribbons." Soon
enough that was done, the pilot started and the cook warwhooped
his broncs into a running start, the bed wagon, loaded down with
twenty some odd "Montana Rolls," took up the swing, and the wood
wagon tagged along behind. Then came the remuda of over two
hundred saddle horses and hazing 'em was the "Wrangatang" (day
wrangler).

The first "circle" of the fall round-up was on that afternoon.
The circle starts from wherever the round-up wagon might be. The
round-up wagon of most countries is composed of three wagons, one
for "chuck" and pots and the cook, another for the riders'
bedding which is rolled in big canvas tarpaulins. It takes quite
some bedding for twenty or more men, specially in countries where
it's apt to snow in the middle of June. The third wagon is for
wood and water and which is used in prairie countries where
there's neither wood or water to be found for a ways.

The cook drives his chuck wagon, the "flunky" (cook's helper)
drives the bed wagon, and the "nighthawk" (rider who herds the
remuda at night) drives the wood wagon. Them three wagons which
is called "The Wagon" is the cowboys' home while on the range. It
carries his grub, his "war bag" (bag of clothes), his bedding,
and strips of rawhide which he salts down and sometimes cuts into
strings and braids things like "bosals" (nose bands) or such.

"The Wagon" moves camp most every day, and sometimes twice and
three times a day; all depends on how quick the country is
"worked." The "circle" starts from "The Wagon." The twenty or
more riders and the cow foreman ride straight to some point for
ten or fifteen miles. On top of some butte the bunch stops, then
the cow foreman "scatters the riders." He'll send 'em in pairs to
the right, left, and straight ahead and spread 'em fan shape to a
certain point where they turn, or where there's no more cattle to
be seen, and they'll head back towards the wagon again, bringing
with 'em all the cattle that's seen in the ride.

That's what's called a "circle." It averages twenty-five miles
and ends at the wagon where all the riders meet again each
bringing with 'em whatever cattle was found. The wagon might of
moved and a new camp set up while the boys was out on "circle,"
but wherever the wagon is that's where the "circle" ends. To one
side of the camp a mile or so is the "cutting grounds" where the
herd is "worked," the spot where all the cattle is brought to
from that one "circle" and held there for branding, and cutting
out whatever is not wanted. Two "circles" are made a day.

Soon as Jeff, the cow foreman, seen the wagons lining out in good
shape for that night's camp, he put his horse in a high lope and
looking back at the boys that was doing their best in putting up
a ride on the sun-fishing ponies, he grinned as he seen that all
stuck on and fanned, and felt mighty proud of being the cow boss
of such a bunch of riders.

Clint was riding a big "apelusa" called Chapo, and one of the
best circle horses the outfit had, but he wasn't appreciating him
much just then. And as he rode along leaving the wagons and
remuda to his left his eyes was a whole lot on the dust that
remuda made, and a trying to get a glimpse of a mouse colored
piece of horseflesh which he'd called Smoky.

But Smoky was getting along fine as he trotted and loped along on
the trail of the wagons. He'd no more than left Clint by the rope
corral when he run acrost that brother of his again and after the
two nickered "howdedoos" at one another they trailed along side
by side, plum contented with everything in general. The sound of
the dozen or so bells that was strapped to the necks of the
oldest and wisest ponies was new and mighty pleasant to Smoky's
ears, and it was good to be roaming again and with so much
company.

It was middle afternoon when the pilot came to a big creek bottom
and circled by a grove of willows and cottonwoods. The second
camp of that day was made, the wrangler let the remuda come to a
walk and pretty soon left 'em to graze on towards the creek a
half a mile below camp; and as he seen that all seemed contented
to graze, drink, and roll, he left 'em to go and put up the rope
corral, snake in wood for the cook, and whatever other things
that's all the responsibilities of the wrangatang.

He kept one eye on the ponies as he worked and if any restless
bronc showed indications of wanting to start drifting, that boy
jumped on his horse, turned him, and watched for a spell till
that bronc seemed satisfied to stay. Many a wrangler had used the
excuse of "hard-to-hold ponies" just so he could get away from
too much work, and most always it was a mighty good excuse too.

But Smoky and Pecos, which was his brother, had give no such a
excuse to the wrangler. They both seemed mighty satisfied, and
after they'd had a good drink in the cool stream, and a good roll
afterwards, put their time in getting away with all the blue
joint grass they could. Every once in a while Smoky would raise
his head, and chewing on a mouthful of the tall feed, would look
up at the ridges around him, then towards the camp and wonder at
the noise the cook was making with his pots and pans. All had him
interested, it was all new, and with the nicker he'd often hear
from one side of the scattered remuda and then the other, the
steady ring of the horse bells and all. The little horse wasn't
hankering for anything only just what he was in the thick of.

He'd been grazing for a good long time, and the sun was hitting
towards the ridges to the west, when to the south a ways he
noticed a big dust a soaring up the sky and a mile high. There
was a steady rumbling noise as the dust came closer and pretty
soon he could make out the bellering of the critter. A big herd
it was, the "combings" of the first "circle," and a thousand head
or more of whitefaced, brockle-faced, speckled, red, black, and
all colors and sizes of range cattle topped a ridge and on a high
lope was swung towards the "cutting grounds."

About that time the horse wrangler fogged in on the remuda, and
in a short while Smoky and all the ponies found themselves in the
rope corral once again; the cowboys was needing fresh horses and
catch ropes begin a sailing once more as the twenty and more of
'em snared their "cut" horses, a few snaked out broncs and pretty
soon all hands was mounted again, and working the herd they'd
brought in.

Smoky was spooked up once more as he heard the ropes sing over
his ears. He heard a familiar voice say "How's she going, Smoky?"
but the little horse was busy hunting a hole about that time and
he was too excited to nicker an answer. Then, after what seemed
an awful long time to Smoky, the ponies was left out of the
corral once more and when the wrangler checked 'em all to graze,
him and Pecos was in the lead.

The ponies was grazing on a low bench and on the opposite side of
the creek from where the cattle herd was being worked. Many was
cut out and started back on the same range from where they come,
and pretty soon Smoky's sensitive nostrils smelled the smoke from
the fire that kept the branding irons hot; then the smell of
burnt hair followed, he heard the beller of the critters, and
snorting sorta low and in wonder, the mouse colored pony watched.

He watched the riders at work, seen long ropes a swinging, and
how them long ropes would stop the bunch-quitting steer; he was
familiar with some of that and somehow there came in him a hunch
that he'd like to be closer; there was something about the
workings of that herd across the creek that had his blood racing
above natural, and he felt a kind of a call for the whole of the
goings on, a call of the kind he couldn't as yet understand, but
it was there sure enough.

Finally, the smell of singed hair wasn't on the breeze no more,
branding was over for that day, and the last rope was coiled up
and fastened by the saddle horn. Smoky watched as all but a few
riders left the herd and headed for camp, he went to grazing
then, and neck and neck with Pecos he listened to the rattle of
tin plates and the laugh of the cowboys as he nosed around for
the tenderest stems of the blue joint.

Four riders on "cocktail" (hours between the last meal of the day
and the first night guard) got on their horses and rode to
"relieve" the riders holding the herd, and it wasn't long after
that when the quiet of the evening settled on the range. Even the
critter seemed to want to stop bellering for a spell at that
time, most of the bells of the remuda was quiet and the ponies
was dozing.

Smoky had been dozing too, but pretty soon his ears perked up at
a sound the likes of which he'd never heard before, the sound
came from the camp, and strange as it was there was something
about it that wasn't at all aggravating.

Around a good size fire was gathered the cowboys,--the cook, the
flunky, the wrangler, Jeff the foreman and all was in the circle,
all but the four riders on "cocktail" and the "nighthawk" who'd
took the wrangler's place for the night's herding of the saddle
horses. Most of the boys was setting on or leaning against a big
roll of tarpaulin covered bedding, and one closest to the fire
was a working away trying to get a tune on his mouth organ.

That was the sound which'd come to Smoky's ears; the older
cowhorses all knowed that sound well, and if any of 'em could of
packed a tune there'd been many in the remuda a humming. The song
that was being worked at just then had been heard at all the cow
camps and round-up wagons of the cow country for many years, and
handed down from the injun fighting cowboy to the son that took
up the trail where he left it and when the horns on the critter
wasn't so long no more. There was a lot of memories stirred up
whenever them songs was heard and many a cowboy got sentimental
at the sound of 'em, for most all cowboys can remember some quiet
night when the time of such a song was spread around the herd;
--then of a sudden and for no reason a stampede is in full swing,
a dead cowboy is found under his horse at the bottom of a fifty
foot jump off, and leaves only the memory of the song he'd been
singing that night.

"Oh, I'm a Texas cowbo-o-oy, and far away from home, And if I
ever get back again no more will I ever roam, Wyoming's too cold
for me-e-e, the winters are too long, And when round up comes
again, my money's all go-o-o-ne."

Clint had got harmonious, and with the other cowboy a trying to
keep up on the mouth organ was singing the song. He mixed in
about ten verses and took in other songs as he went, the tunes
changed some, but the "Texas whang" he carried with the tunes
made 'em more or less alike and all appreciated the same.

The last verse had died down, some of the boys looked up
expecting more, and others, hat brim pulled down, was star-gazing
at the fire and letting the memories the songs had brought lead
'em back to times and happenings that'd been stirred the most.

All was quiet, excepting for the crackling of the fire, and one
of the boys was just about to speak the name of some other old
song when off from the direction where the remuda was held, a
nicker was heard.

Clint looked towards where the familiar nicker had come and
smiled,--the cowboy's voice had carried to where Smoky had been
grazing, and the little horse had stopped grinding on his feed
soon as the first verse had hit his ears; he'd listened on thru
to the end, nickered, and watched the fire on the creek bottom
from where the voice had come.

He watched it long into the night till all was quiet and the fire
had dwindled down to coals; time for first night guard to be
relieved was near and Smoky was still watching. Pecos was dozing
off a ways, and pretty soon Smoky begin to feel a little groggy
too and he dozed with him.

A new day was no more than hinted by the paling sky to the east
when the "nighthawk" begin bunching the ponies and hazing 'em
towards camp. It was still faint daylight when the catch ropes
was a hissing over the ponies' heads once again and loops settled
around slick necks. Broncs was drug out, and a fighting against
the saddle while the sun was still back of the ridges, but the
day's work had started at the round up camp.

In a short while the remuda was let out again, and the day
wrangler started grazing 'em while the outfit broke camp for
other grounds. When all was loaded in the big wagons the pilot
took the lead, and when the sun showed up to begin its circle up
above, the cook had already moved his kitchen some ten miles and
the pots was beginning to feel the heat of the fire underneath.

Smoky was in another new country that day, and as he grazed with
the remuda he noticed the same workings of the day before,
another big herd was brought in from that morning's "circle,"
then one more that afternoon, more cattle was cut out and then
singed hair floated on the breeze once more.

Twice again he was corralled with the remuda for fresh horses the
riders was needing, and the little horse was slow beginning to
get used to the sound of the ropes and the sight of the strange
cowboys. Clint was to see him at the last corralling of the day
and when the nighthawk took the ponies out for the night Smoky
nipped Pecos in the flanks. He felt playful.

Outside of the time he spent in the rope corral the little horse
was enjoying the following of the round-up mighty well,--there
was always so many horses around, and all with the bellering of
the big herds and the dust that was kept up sure tallied up with
the beat of his heart. He hadn't figgered on what to expect being
one of the remuda that way, and being that he couldn't make out
all that went on he didn't know just what could be expected, and
that's why maybe he wasn't worried much.

"Going to make a very big circle this morning, Jeff?"

It was the morning of the third day that Clint asked the foreman
that question, and when Jeff answered he understood what was on
Clint's mind. He grinned at the cowboy as he spoke.

"You go ahead and ride your Smoky horse, Clint, I'll put you on
the inside circle so as it won't be too hard on him."

And that's how come when it was Smoky's turn to be rode that the
easiest was handed him. The horse spotted Clint coming towards
him, a rope was in his hands but no loop was dragging and he met
the cowboy halfways.

Of the many ponies that makes up a "remuda" there's seldom any
that can be walked up to, even the gentlest has to be roped.
They're broke that way and it all saves time, for a cowboy can
stand off thirty feet, rope his horse and start leading him out
from there. It saves him many steps and when there's so many
riders and horses, them steps and the time it'd take to make 'em
sure would accumulate. Then again there's so many wild ponies
that would have to be roped anyway. So making the whole thing
simple, every horse is caught with a loop. No good roper ever
whirls a loop in catching horses, and the only sound that's heard
is when the rope splits from the ground to the pony's head.

Once in a while, and even with real cow outfits that's well run,
there's exceptions in roping every horse that way. Smoky was the
one exception on the Rocking R, and every cowboy was good natured
jealous at the way that mouse colored son of a gun of a horse
would stick his head out every time Clint came around and then
left his hiding place from amongst the other horses to meet him.

Smoky knowed that something was up soon as Clint came near him,
but whatever it was he was anxious to be at it;--him and that
cowboy would get along. The little horse humped up as he felt the
cinch, and Clint grinned as he remarked:

"Going to make this old broke-down cowboy ride this morning,
huh?"

And Smoky did. He bogged his head soon as Clint was well set, and
bucked and bellered all over the flat like he was a man-eating
outlaw. It was the right thing for a live horse to do them cold
fall mornings, and Clint was enjoying fanning the dust off
Smoky's round rump the same as that pony enjoyed the idea that he
sure was giving somebody a tossing.

"Better save some of that," says Clint as he finally pulled
Smoky's head up, "cause you might need all the energy you got
before you get back."

About twelve miles or so from camp a knoll was reached; from
there Jeff "scattered" his riders to circle and comb the country
on the way back. Clint and another rider was the last to be let
go, and on the "inside" brought with 'em all the cattle they
found. Half ways back to camp, Smoky begin to notice big dusts on
both sides of him; them dusts kept a getting closer and closer
till pretty soon he begin to see that it was more cattle making
them dusts. Herds kept a being drove in with the bunch Clint and
the other rider had rounded up, and by the time camp was reached,
all the dusts had throwed in and made one. Twenty or more riders
and over a thousand head of cattle was turned to the cutting
grounds and held there a milling.

Smoky was tired, he'd been breathing dust and turning bleary-eyed
critters till it seemed like there'd be no end. Besides it felt
awful hot on his back where the saddle was, and even tho Clint
often got off, uncinched the saddle and raised it so the cool air
could circulate thru, it wasn't long when his back, not used to
long saddling, would feel as hot as ever again.

It was a great relief to the little horse when the saddle was
pulled off as they reached camp and the rope corral. Clint then
led him to the creek and washed the dry sweat off his back with
the cool water, and as that was done Smoky right away forgot the
work of that first circle. He felt a lot at ease with everything
in general as Clint turned him loose in the corral, and a while
later when fresh horses was caught and ropes begin sailing again,
Smoky wasn't for hunting a hole like the times before; he felt
that he'd done his.--Pecos was snared while standing a few feet
from him, and then the ponies was turned loose. But there Smoky
lagged behind a little; he'd spotted Clint who was saddling
another horse, and he stood in his tracks, watching, and maybe
wondering. Then the wrangler came, and Smoky followed the remuda
up the draw.

Plenty of grass, under, and all around him, and a chance to stand
still was for the first time appreciated by the mouse colored
gelding. He'd had a taste of real work, the first taste, and with
it had come the feeling that he wasn't no half broke bronc no
more. He was even beginning to look at the critter with a knowing
eye and something was sprouting up in him which left no doubt but
what he was the boy that could handle 'er.

He never figgered on how much there was to learn in the ways of
handling that split-hoofed range animal,--he'd had no way to know
as yet, and as it was he grazed feeling sure that he knowed a lot
about 'em. He felt equal to the old saddle marked cowhorses that
was in the same remuda and he wouldn't have nothing to do with
the raw broncs that was mixed in. But there that high opinion of
himself was stopped, for the old cowhorses wouldn't let him
associate with 'em and as they'd chase him away, he failed to
notice that they felt the same about him as he did about the
uneddicated raw broncs.

But then, credit had to be handed to the little horse on account
that even tho he still had a powerful lot to learn, he sure was
all for learning, and the pride he'd naturally took in the game,
along with the coaching of such a cowboy as Clint, all promised
that he'd sure get there.

Smoky watched every herd that came in, followed the wagon on its
everyday move, and was even getting used to them ropes that sung
over his head three or four times a day. Of course Clint was
always on hand at each corralling to kind of help him get used to
all the commotion, and came a time when the little horse knowed
exactly where and which side of the corral that cowboy would be.
His saddle was always on the ground a few feet on the outside,
and every horse he caught to ride would always be led or "snaked"
to that same spot, and Smoky got so that whenever he was
corralled he'd make a rush for that one spot where he could easy
reach Clint's shirt whenever the attention of that cowboy was
needed.

Each rider on the outfit was furnished on the average of ten
horses; there was anyway three changes of horses every day which
made it that every horse was rode from four to six hours every
third day, and that's how Smoky's turn came. Clint rode him out
on "circle" three times, and till the little horse got pretty
well onto the hazing of the critter, and then that pony was of a
sudden promoted to the "day-herd" class. Of course Smoky was
somewhat of a privileged character or he wouldn't made that so
soon, but the way he took holt of the bit and went to work he
sure didn't disappoint Clint any.

The promotion started when that cowboy thought of trying him out
one day as a big herd was brought in to work. He'd changed his
tired "circle" horse to Smoky, and after that pony had his buck
out he lined him out to a standstill close to the milling
critters. It was Clint's and Smoky's job to see that none broke
away outside of what was cut out to be held for the "main herd."
A dozen other riders was on the same job and most all riding well
reined cowhorses, and as Smoky noticed the kind of company he was
keeping, a ticklish feeling came between his ears and a spark
showed in his eyes.

He was about at the height of his glory and hardly able to stay
on earth, when, quick as the eye could see, a big raw-boned steer
broke out, and wild-eyed dodged past the riders and hightailed it
out for open country. In the trance Smoky was in he hardly seen
anything of the critter but a flash, but as the earth had no
strings on him either just then it only took a feel of the rein
for him to be up and a flying. That flash that went past him a
second before was recognized as an earthly critter soon as Smoky
set eyes on 'er, and soon as he got the hunch that that critter
needed turning, the distance between was et up the same as tho
that horse had been starving for such.

There was a mighty satisfied smile on Clint's face as the steer
was shot back in the herd the same way he'd come out, and as for
Smoky, there sure was nothing about him that suggested "the end
of the trail." He was brought to a mighty proud standstill by the
herd again, and no critter broke out that he wasn't right on the
tail of from the start, unless it was in some other rider's
territory.

Working the herds that was drove to the cutting grounds, and
holding the day herd, was from then on Smoky's work. He liked
working the herds best on account there was more to do, but then
day herding wasn't so bad either, Clint always seen that his rope
was kept well stretched, and soon as he knowed the foreman was
gone on circle with the other riders he could easy find some
critter he had a grudge against and pile his rope onto, and Smoky
sure enjoyed turning 'em over.

All the boys, excepting the "reps" from other outfits, had one
half a day of day herding every three days. Smoky's time to be
rode came on the dot of that time, but Clint didn't always take
him out on that, and often he'd switch so that the little horse
would get plenty of work cutting out or bringing big calves and
"slicks" to the branding fire, and that pony was sure beginning
to shine there.

Once in a while tho Clint would get sort of selfish and want
Smoky's company on that long half a day's herding, and it was
during them spells that the two got to be more understanding, if
that's possible, to one another. Neither was so rushed for work
then, and there was times when the big herd of beef steers and
cows and weaners would want to graze and not try to drift away or
scatter. At them times Clint would rein Smoky up a knoll, and
where both could see the whole of the herd. He'd get out of his
saddle and stretch out in the shade Smoky made, and take it easy,
and there, with one eye on the cowboy, the other on the herd, and
swishing flies, Smoky would stand.



CHAPTER IX

FIGHTS FOR RIGHTS


The fine, cool, and sunshiny days of fall was making a last
stand,--rains begin to come, and as time was a crawling towards
early winter, them rains got colder and then turned to a wet
snow. Mud was where dust had been, the hard-twist throw ropes had
turned stiff as steel cables, saddles and saddle blankets was
wet, heavy, and cold, and the shivering ponies met the feel of
them with a hump and a buck.

The cowboys, all a packing long, yellow slickers, was beginning
to tally up on how much wages would be due 'em. As the end of the
fall round-up drawed near, and as they waded thru slush and mud
from the chuck wagon to the rope corral, not many was caring. Wet
socks, damp beds, two hours of shivering on night guard, saddling
ornery ponies in daytime and when a feller can't even get a
footing, and then riding 'em a wondering if them ponies will
stand up as they beller and buck on the slick and muddy ground,
all left a hankering only for a warm dugout somewheres, where
there's a stove, a bunk to set on, and a few magazines to read as
mother nature does her best to make the outside miserable.

The last of the beef herd had been turned over to another "wagon"
of the Rocking R and shipped, and Jeff's main herd was from then
on made up of cows with big weaner calves, and all stock that'd
need feeding thru the winter.

"A couple of weeks more now and we'll be seeing the gates of the
home ranch," says Jeff one day, but it was a long three weeks
before the stock was tended to and when camp was made for the
last time. The wet snow had got flaky and dry by then and six
inches of it was covering the ground.

"Now hold on a minute, Smoky, and give a feller a chance, won't
you?"

It was Clint a talking, and trying to hold Smoky down till he got
his foot in the stirrup. The cowboy being all bundled up couldn't
handle himself as he'd like to; the little horse was cold;
crusted snow had to be rubbed off his back before the saddle
could be put on and he was aching to put his head down and go to
bucking so he could warm up.

Clint was only half ways in the saddle when that pony lit into
it, but the cowboy didn't mind that. His blood was also a long
ways from the boiling point and any excuse to get circulating
good was welcome.

Around and around him Smoky went and all in one spot. All the
fancy twists of a bucking pony was gone over and the rider met
him all the way, and as Clint rode and fanned and laughed, he'd
get fast glimpses of other riders and other horses a tearing up
the white landscape and getting down to the earth underneath.

It was the last day of the round-up, all the work was done, the
cook climbed on his seat, grabbed the lines the boys handed him,
and letting out a war whoop, scared his already spooky team into
a long lope towards the home ranch.

The sight of the big gates was a mighty fine one to all as the
outfit clattered in, specially with the sky a threatening the way
it was; the old cow horses had their ears pointed towards the big
pole corrals. They knowed what the sight of them meant at that
time of the year and none tried to break away as the wrangler run
'em in. They was turned out in a big pasture that night, and the
next days a couple of riders came, bunched 'em up, and took 'em
thru another gate leading out of the ranch.

Clint had took it onto hisself to be one of them riders,--he
wanted to get another look at Smoky before letting him go to the
winter range and find out for sure just what conditions that
range would be in. The outskirts of it was reached that noon and
as Clint rode along back of the remuda he was more than satisfied
to notice the tall feed that the six inches of snow couldn't
hide. He noticed the breaks and the shelter they would give, then
the thick growth of willows along the creek bottom and which
meant more shelter.

Clint stopped his horse and the two hundred ponies was left to
scatter. His eyes run over the well known backs for a last time,
he wouldn't be seeing them again till spring round-up started and
he watched 'em slowly graze away. Many was in that bunch that
he'd broke and named, and starting from the meanest fighting
bronc of the rough string, and taking all the ponies on up to the
best cowhorse of the foreman's string there wasn't one that Clint
didn't know and know mighty well as to tricks and good or bad
points.

A big old sorrel with a kinked neck and by the name of Boar Hound
caught his eye, and Clint remembered how that pony tried to
commit suicide rather than be rode and how he'd now changed to
wanting to commit murder instead and kill a few cowboys. Then a
smile spread over his face as he spotted a tall Roman nosed
gruller who'd never made a jump till a rope got under his tail.
He'd took a sudden liking to bucking from then on and made
hisself a reputation at that which scattered over four counties.

Every horse Clint looked at brought to memory some kind of a
story, and there was a variety of expressions which changed with
every horse that came under his eye. A big shaggy black looked
his way and snorted and with the sight of him Clint remembered
how that horse had reached ahead one time and kicked to pieces a
cowboy that'd been unsaddling him.

His expression was mighty solemn at the thought of that, but it
didn't last long. Like a ray of sunshine, something shot out and
scattered that dark cloud of memories four ways,--Smoky had
showed himself from behind other horses and not over fifty feet
from where Clint was setting on his horse.

The cowboy's face lit up with a smile at the sight of the pony,
and getting down off his saddle he made tracks his way, but he
didn't have to go all the way, for soon as Smoky spotted him he
left Pecos, his running pardner, behind, and nickering came to
meet Clint.

"A feller would think to see you act that you're a sure enough
sugar eater," Clint remarked as the little horse came up to him
and stopped. He rubbed a hand on the pony's head and went on.

"Well, anyway, Smoky, I'm glad to see that you've got a mighty
fine winter range to run on; with all the feed I see here and the
shelter that's with it you hadn't ought to lose an ounce of fat,"
Clint felt for the pony's ribs and grinning resumed, "and if you
ever get any fatter than you are now you'll be plum worthless."

Smoky followed Clint as he turned and went to where he'd left his
horse, "I wonder," says that cowboy, "if you've got the hunch
that you won't be seeing me no more till next spring?--That's a
long time ain't it? But never mind old horse, I'm the first
cowboy you're going to see when spring does break up."

Clint was about to get on his horse and ride away, but he
stopped, and felt of Smoky's hide once more.

"Well, so long, Smoky, take care of yourself and don't let
anything drag you down."

Smoky watched him ride away and nickered once as the cowboy went
over the point of a ridge and disappeared. He watched a long time
even after that and till he was sure Clint was gone, and finally
turning went to grazing back till he was by the side of Pecos
again.

The winter came and hit the range with the average amount of
snow, freeze ups, and cold winds. The cayotes howled the hunger
they felt, for there was no weak stock to speak of for them to
feed off of, and outside of small varmints they could get once in
a while, pickings was mighty poor. Horses and cattle was and
stayed in fine shape; and the stockman could hit his bed after
the long day's ride knowing that he could go to sleep right off,
and not lay awake a wondering what he could do to pull his stock
thru.

Smoky met all what the weather had to hand him, with a good layer
of fat, a thick skin, and a long coat of hair. He lost a few
ounces but he could of spared many pounds and felt as good. Feed
was a plenty and the little pawing that had to be done to reach
it was like so much exercise and only kept his blood in good
circulating order.

The winter months wore on, the ponies drifted from ridge to
ridge, from shelter to shelter, and nothing much came to disturb
the quiet of the land, nothing much excepting when a big shaggy
black tried to throw in with Pecos, the same black that'd kicked
the cowboy over the Great Divide. But his interfering and butting
in was welcome tho in a way. Smoky and Pecos had so much good
energy going to waste that they'd been just aching for some
excuse to use some of it for some good.

It came about that the big black had took a liking to Pecos, and
at the same time a dislike for Smoky. Pecos was neutral for a
while and wondered what the black was, up to when he tried to
chase Smoky away from him. Smoky wouldn't chase worth a nickel
but he was getting skinned up considerable a trying to hold his
ground. Things went on that way for a day or so and every once in
a while the black made a dive for Smoky like he was going to tear
him to pieces.--His intentions was good, but Smoky sure was no
invalid. When the snow settled again where he'd held his ground
the little horse hadn't give away one inch.

But the black was twice as old as Smoky, more up to the game of
fighting, and heavier by a hundred pounds. All that begin to tell
on the mouse colored hide, and there might of come a time when
Smoky would of had to hightail it, only, as the scraps was
repeated off and on, Pecos begin to notice and realize that that
black was taking too much territory, and he didn't like him
nohow.

So that's how come, that when the black put down his ears and
made another grand tearing rush for Smoky, that something struck
him from the off side and upset him and his plans of attack all
to pieces. He found hisself jerked off his feet and rolled plum
over the top of Smoky and he lit head first on the other side.
When he picked himself up out of the snow his spirits was
dampened some in wonder, and more so when he shook his head and
was able to see and noticed that there was two mighty vicious
looking ponies a waiting for him to come again. He shook his head
once more at that, and as Smoky and Pecos bowed their necks and
came his way the black turned tail and started a looking for
other company and which would appreciate him more.

But whether it was orneriness or just plain thick headedness, the
black tried to butt in again the next day; maybe he just wasn't
convinced. Anyway, Pecos noticed him first and before the black
could even get to Smoky. War was started right there, but Pecos
was no match for the black and even tho he wasn't for quitting,
the worst of the battle was on his side. It was about when the
crusted snow was flying the thickest that Smoky, who'd been off a
ways, noticed the commotion. He seen his pardner down on his
knees and the black a chewing away on him, and right about then
the standing Smoky was transformed into a eleven hundred pound
bombshell. The explosion came as he connected with the black and
then black fur begin to fly and soar up above.--Somehow or other
the black managed to gather enough of his scattered senses to
know what had happened; them senses told him to act, and act
quick, and he did. He tore himself away from the pressing,
tearing mixture of flying hoofs and sharp teeth and split the
breeze making far apart tracks to where horseflesh wasn't so
thick.

The next day he was seen with Boar Hound, the kinked-necked
sorrel, the Roman-nosed gruller, and a few more ornery ponies of
the "rough string." A company bunch more fitting to his kind.

The days was getting longer and warmer, the snow begin packing
and melting some, and pretty soon bare patches of ground showed
in plain sight. Smoky and Pecos' hides begin a itching and the
two was often busy a scratching one another and starting from the
neck went to the withers along the backbone to the rump and back
again. Big bunches of long winter hair begin a slipping and
falling to the ground as they scratched, and came a time when as
they rolled, more of that hair was left till finally patches of
short slick satin-like hair begin to show.

Then green and tender grass begin to loom up and plentiful, and
that finished the work of ridding the ponies hides of all the
long hair that was left. Creeks was swelling from the waters of
the fast melting snows, spring had come and the sunshine and warm
winds that came with it was doing its work.

The round-up cook was once again scrubbing on the chuck box that
was on the end of the long wagon, and the cowboys, one by one
begin a drifting in from parts near and far anxious to be
starting on the spring works again. Some came from the different
cow camps of the Rocking R range, a few of the riders that'd been
let go when work was done the fall before never showed up, but
others rode in and after a few words with Jeff took the places of
them that was missing.

Clint had wintered at one of the outfit's camps and drawed his
wages regular, and when the range land begin to get bare of snow
and the watching out for weak stock was no more necessary he put
his bed on one horse, his saddle on another, and headed for the
home ranch. He was one of the first riders to reach that place,
and when the horse round-up started he was one of the first to
have his horse saddled, topped off, and lined out to sashay in
all of the ponies that could be found on the horse range.

Smoky had been feeding on the sunny side of a butte, and for no
reason other than to be looking around he raised his head; only
his ears and eyes showed as he looked over the top of that butte;
but that was enough for him to see a rider coming his direction,
and see him before that rider ever had a hunch any horses was
around anywheres near.

Smoky snorted and hightailed it down the side of the butte to
where Pecos and a few other ponies had also been feeding, and the
way he acted left no doubt in their minds but what they should be
on the move. They all was at full speed the minute he landed
amongst 'em, and when the rider topped the butte where they'd
been a few minutes before, they had the lead on him by near a
mile.

But the ponies wasn't wanting to get away near as much as might
of been thought. It was only that Smoky had got spooked up at the
sudden sight of the rider, and him and all the others feeling
good as they did wasn't needing much excuse. The cowboy fogged
down on 'em and a little to one side so as to turn 'em. They
turned easy enough even tho the rider was a long ways behind, and
making a big circle that rider finally had 'em headed towards the
big corrals of the home ranch.

A big grin spread over the cowboy's features as the sun shined on
the slick back of the mouse colored horse at the lead of the
bunch, and even tho there was a half a mile between him and that
horse, that cowboy knowed daggone well it was him, for the sun
never reflected on no other horse's hide as well as it did on
Smoky's, and besides, there was no mistaking the good feeling
action of that pony's.

"Told you I'd be the first to see you when spring broke up," says
the cowboy as he held his horse down to a lope.

The twenty-five mile run from the time Smoky had been spotted
kinda filled the bill far as running was concerned, and when the
long wings of the pole corrals at the home ranch was reached the
rider was right on the ponies' tails and on the job to keep 'em
going straight ahead into the corral;--then the big gate closed
in on 'em.

"Guess you don't know me no more," says Clint to Smoky as he
stood afoot in the corral and watched the pony tear around;--then
to hisself:

"Maybe he don't know it's me that's watching him."

Clint was right, the long winter months of freedom without seeing
one human had kind of let him get back to his natural wild
instinct, and the first sight of Clint had been of just a human,
and it'd spooked him up till he'd have to calm down some before
it'd come to him just _who_ that human was.

The cowboy spoke to him as Smoky, wild eyed, snorted and hunted
for a hole, but Clint kept a speaking, and as the pony tore
around and heard the voice, something gradually came to him that
seemed far away and near forgot. He stopped a couple of times to
look at the cowboy, and each time his getting away was less
rushing, till, as the voice kept a being heard, things got
clearer and clearer in that pony's brain.

Smoky had stopped once more, and neck bowed, ears straight ahead,
and eyes a sparkling, faced acrost the corral to where the
cowboy, still and standing, was talking to him.

"Daggone your little hide," says Clint, "are we going to have to
get acquainted all over again?--come on over here and let me run
my hand over that knowledge bump of yours, and maybe I can get
your think tank to functioning right again."

Smoky didn't come, but he held his ground and listened to the
talk. Clint talked on and watched him till the horse lost some of
his wild look and then slow and easy started walking his way.
Something and away in the past seemed to hold Smoky as the cowboy
slowly came nearer and nearer. His instinct was all for him a
leaving the spot he was holding, but that something which stuck
in his memory was the stronger and sort of kept him there.

Clint came on a few steps at the time, and then stopped, and
talking the while, took his time till he was within a few feet of
Smoky. A little flaw of any kind right then in that human's
actions could of spoilt things easy and sent the pony a
skeedaddling away from there in a hurry; but Clint knowed horses
and specially Smoky too well to do anything of the kind. He
knowed just what was going on between that pony's ears, and how
to agree with all that mixed in there.

Finally, Clint got to where by reaching out he could near of
touched Smoky. Slow and easy the cowboy raised a hand and held it
to within a few inches of the pony's nose, Smoky looked at it and
snorted, but pretty soon he stretched his neck and mighty careful
took a sniff of the human paw. He snorted again and jerked his
head away from it, but it wasn't long when he took another sniff,
then another and another, and each time the snort growed less to
be heard, till at last, Smoky even allowed that paw to touch his
nostrils, the fingers rubbed there easy for a spell and gradually
went on a rubbing along his nose along on up to between his eyes
and pretty soon between his ears to that knowledge bump. Five
minutes afterwards Smoky was following the grinning cowboy all
around the corral.

The round-up wagons, all cleaned and loaded, was ready to pull
out, the remuda was all accounted for and each string pointed out
to each rider, and Jeff giving the whole outfit another look over
waved a hand, the pilot reined his horse into a bucking start,
all took up his lead and thru the big gates of the home ranch,
wagons, riders, remuda, and all lined out. The spring round-up
had started.

Smoky broke the record for learning that year, and when the fall
round-up was over and the saddle was pulled off him for the last
time before being turned out on the winter range, there was two
little white spots of white hair showed on each side of his
withers and about the size of a dollar,--saddle marks they was,
and like medals for the good work he'd done. There was a knowing
spark in his eyes for the critter too, for the little horse had
got to savvy the cow near as well as the old cowhorses that'd
been in the same remuda that year.

There was only one thing that could of been held against the good
record of that pony, and that was his bucking;--he just had to
have his little buck out every morning, and sometimes he bucked
harder than other times--that all depended on how cold the
weather was--but Clint didn't seem to mind that at all. If
anything he tried to perserve that bucking streak in the pony,
and he was often heard to remark:

"A horse ain't worth much unless that shows up some."

But Clint had other reasons for keeping the "buck" in Smoky's
backbone.--Old Tom Jarvis, superintendent and part owner of the
Rocking R, had joined the wagon for a few days that summer and
wanted to see his cowboys work his cattle for a spell. Him being
an old cowman, and from away back before cattle wore short horns,
made all the working of a herd all the more interesting and to be
criticized one way or the other. He was present steady on the
cutting grounds, and so was Smoky one day.

Clint felt that the eyes of Old Tom was on Smoky the minute he
rode him to the edge of the herd, and an uneasy feeling crawled
up his backbone as he noticed that that Old Grizzly seemed to've
lost his eyesight for anything else but his Smoky horse. Clint
knowed Old Tom's failing for a good horse, and he'd heard of how
many a time that same failing had come near putting the cowman in
jail for appropriating some horse he couldn't buy;--of course
them times was past, but the failing was still in the old man's
chest, and _Smoky belonged to him_.

The cowboy had started Smoky to cutting out, work where all the
good points of a cowhorse have chance to show up, and Smoky sure
wasn't hiding any. Old Tom's eyes was near popping out of his
head as he watched the mouse colored gelding work, and finally,
as Clint noticed all the interest, he figgered it a good idea to
get out of the herd and hide Smoky somewheres before the old
cowman came to him and suggested swapping horses. The cowboy as
afraid he'd already showed too much of that horse, and as he come
out of the herd he made a circle and took his stand away on the
opposite side from there Old Tom was holding.

But Old Tom was controlling owner of that outfit and he could be
any place he wanted to on that range any time. A steer broke out,
Old Tom took after him, circled him around the herd, and when he
put him back in and brought his horse to a standstill, there was
only a short distance between him and the horse he'd had his eye
on.

Clint was scared and he cussed a little. He tried keep Smoky down
whenever a critter broke out that needed turning, and even tried
to let a couple of 'em get away, but he couldn't do it without
making it too plain to see, and besides, Smoky had ideas of his
own about handling them critters.

The cowboy was worried all the rest of the day and lost some
sleep that night a wondering how he was going to dodge Old Tom.
He knowed the old cowman would be around with some proposition to
swap him out of Smoky, and that was one of the last things the
cowboy would do. There wasn't a horse in the outfit or anywheres
else he'd trade Smoky for.

It's took for granted on any real cow outfit that whenever a
horse is swapped or borrowed out of a cowboy's string and handed
to somebody else, that that cowboy is requested to quit or be
fired, in other words it's an insult that makes any real cowboy
want to scrap and then ask for his wages.

Clint was a valuable man to the outfit, but with Old Tom one
cowboy more or less didn't matter, that is if that cowboy stood
between him and a horse he wanted. He walked up to Clint the next
day and not hesitating any he says:

"I'm going to try that mouse colored horse you was riding
yesterday"; and thinking it'd please Clint to hear, he went on,
"and if I like him I'll trade you my brown horse Chico for him;
he's the best horse I got at the home ranch."

But all that only made Clint get red in the face, and fire showed
in his eyes as he spoke.

"Huh! you can't ride Smoky."

"Why in samhill can't I?" asks Old Tom, also getting red in the
face.

"Cause you can't," answers Clint, "why you couldn't even put a
saddle on him."

Clint was for quitting the outfit right there and hit for some
other country, but the thought of leaving Smoky behind kinda put
him to figgering another way out;--if he could get Old Tom sort
of peeved and let him handle Smoky while he was feeling that way,
most likely that pony would do the rest.

"I'll show you whether I can saddle that horse or not," says Old
Tom, frothing at the mouth; "why I've handled and rode broncs
that you couldn't get in the same corral with, and before you
even was born."

"Yep," says Clint, grinning sarcastic, "that was too long ago,
and you're too daggoned old now for that kind of a horse."

Old Tom glared at Clint for a second, and not finding no ready
come back done the next best thing and got busy. He went to his
saddle, jerked his rope off it, and spitting fire, shook out a
loop that could be heard a whistling plum to the other side of
the corral.

Smoky was surprised into a dozen catfits as that same wicked loop
settled over his head and drawed tight and sudden around his
neck. He bellered and bucked thru the remuda a dragging Old Tom
with him. The old cowman made a motion and two grinning cowboys
went and helped him.

Clint stood on the outside and watched the performance. He rolled
cigarette after cigarette and tore 'em up fast as they was made,
not a one was lit. He seen Smoky brought to a choking standstill
and that cowboy felt like committing murder as he noticed the
fear in that pony's eyes as he faced the strangers; but there
Clint noticed something else and which he gradually recognized as
_fight_,--there was more fight than fear, and at the sight of
that the cowboy took hope.

"Since when does a cowboy get help to rope and saddle his horse,"
he hollered as Old Tom was sizing up Smoky. "Pretty soon you'll
be wanting one of us to top him off for you."

It worked just right, and Old Tom's answer was only a jerk on the
rope that held Smoky. The old cowman knowed better than to handle
a horse that way and as a rule was always easy with 'em, but he
was mad, mad clear thru, and rather than shoot a cowboy he was
taking it out on the horse.

And Smoky by that time was fast catching up with the spirit of
all that went on. He was like a raw bronc that'd never seen a
human or a saddle, and when he was finally brought up alongside
the saddle, there was all about him to show he wasn't safe for
anybody coming near. But Old Tom, even tho it was a long time
ago, had handled many mean horses;--he knowed he was past
handling 'em any more, but this time was different and he'd do
his best to carry it thru.

The two riders that'd been helping him was waved away; he'd show
Clint and the rest of the young fellers that he could still do
it. He then spread a loop and caught both of Smoky's threatening
front feet; Smoky knowed better than to fight a rope and he stood
still knowing he'd soon have another chance. Rawhide hobbles was
fastened on his front legs, a bridle put on his head, and then
the saddle was reached for and put on his back and cinched to
stay.

"Better say your prayers before you climb up," says Clint, still
prodding Old Tom, at the same time hoping that he would stop
before he went too far. But there was no stopping him, he pulled
up his chap' belt, set his hat down tight, and still mad enough
to bite a nail in two, loosened the hobbles, grabbed a short holt
on the reins and climbed on.

Smoky looked back at the stranger that was a setting on him, and
soon as a touch of the rein on his neck told him that all was
set, things started a happening from there. He bowed his head,
made two jumps, and was just getting started good when he felt
the saddle was empty;--he made a few more jumps just for good
measure, and then stopped.

Clint was grinning from ear to ear as he walked up to Smoky and
put his hand on his neck.

"Good work, old boy," he says,--and then turning to Old Tom, who
was picking himself up: "Want to try again?"

"You bet your doggone life I do," says that old cowboy.

"All right," answers Clint, getting peeved some more. "Go ahead
and break your fool neck, there's plenty of buffalo wallows
around here we can bury you in."

Old Tom walked over and jerked the reins out of Clint's hands and
started to get in the saddle again, but he didn't even get well
in it that time,--Smoky bowed his head and went out from under
him leaving Old Tom come down on the other side.

It was as the old man was about to try Smoky once more when Jeff
Nicks interfered, and told his boss how he'd rather not have him
try that horse any more.

"That horse bucks every time he's rode," says Jeff.

Old Tom knowed he'd come to the end of his string but that didn't
ease his feelings any, and he was looking for some way of letting
some of them feelings out before they choked him. When he spots
Clint a standing to one side and by Smoky.

"You're fired," he hollered, pointing a finger at him, "I'll get
somebody to take the buck out of that horse, and the sooner
you're off this range the better I'll like it."

Clint just grinned at Old Tom, which made him all the madder, and
about then Jeff spoke:

"I'm doing the hiring and firing on this outfit, Tom, and as long
as I'm working for you I'll keep on a doing it."

Old Tom turned on him like a wild cat. "Fine!" he hollered, "you
can go too."

The old cowman had went as far as he could, and as he walked away
to catch himself another saddle horse, he had a hunch that he'd
also went further than he should; that hunch got stronger as he
went on saddling, and as he gave the latigo a last yank, it all
developed into plain common sense that he'd sure enough went too
far.

But Old Tom wasn't for giving in, not right then anyway. He got
on his horse and riding close enough so Jeff could hear, says:

"You and Clint can come to the ranch and I'll have your time
ready for you," and then to another rider,--"you handle the
outfit till I send out another foreman."

A lot of orneriness was scattered to the winds as Old Tom covered
the long fifty miles back to the ranch, and as he opened the big
gate leading in, a brand new feeling had come over him,--he was
for catching a fresh horse the next morning early and hightailing
it back to the wagon to sort of smooth things over best as he
could.

He unsaddled and turned his horse loose, and was mighty surprised
as he came up to the big ranch house to find both Jeff and Clint
already there and waiting for him. Not a hint of the good
resolutions he'd made showed as he walked up to 'em, and after
some kind of a "howdy," Old Tom heard Jeff say:

"All the boys sent word in by me, that as long as you're making
out my check you'd just as well make theirs out too. I'm sorry
for that." went on Jeff, "and I tried to talk 'em out of it, but
it's no use, they're all for quitting if I go."

The old cowman never said a word as he led Jeff and Clint in the
big house. He walked to a big table in the center of the living
room and there he turned on his two riders. A smile was on his
face and he says:

"Daggone it, Jeff, I'm glad to hear that." Then Old Tom, still
pleasant, but serious, went on, "for no man does his best work
unless he's doing it with somebody he likes and has confidence
in. Yes," he repeated, "I'm glad to hear that, but the question
is now, you're fired and free to go, ain't you?" he asks.

"Yes," says Jeff, "soon as I get paid off."

"Well, how's chances of hiring you over again? I can't afford to
let a foreman like you go, Jeff."

Jeff seemed to figger a while and then looked at Clint, and Old
Tom guessing what was on his foreman's mind, went on "and of
course, being that I have no say in the hiring and firing of your
riders, Clint wasn't fired at all, and he can keep on riding for
you."

Finally hands was shook all around, and as Jeff and Clint started
back for the wagon the next morning Old Tom was on hand to see
'em go.

"And don't worry about that daggone mouse colored horse of yours,
Clint," he says as him and Jeff rode away, "I'll never want him."

The riders reached the big gate leading out of the ranch, and
there Jeff remarked as he got off his horse to open it:

"I guess Old Tom didn't have to say that he was sorry."

And Clint more than agreed.



CHAPTER X

"AMONGST THE MISSING"


The remuda was in the big corrals of the home ranch once more,
and after a few "winter" horses was cut out, the rest was hazed
towards the winter range, and let go.--Four long winter months
went by.--Then one day the round-up cook begin to get busy
cleaning the chuck box, meadow larks was a tuning up on the high
corral posts, and along with the bare patches of ground that
could be seen, no better signs was needed that spring had come.

Clint was again the first to spot Smoky that spring and notice
the amount of tallow that pony was packing. He was in fine shape
for whatever work that'd be his to do that summer, and soon as
him and the cowboy got thru with their first "howdys" they both
went to work like they never had before.

Smoky took up to where he'd left off the fall before and kept on
accumulating science in ways of handling the critter till that
critter would just roll up an eye at the sight of the mouse
colored pony and never argue as to where he wanted to put 'er;
--she'd just go there.

Spring work went on, middle summer came, and sometime after, the
fall round-up was in full swing again. Thousands of cattle was
handled, cut out, and culled. Big herds of fat steers was trailed
in to the shipping point and loaded in the cars, and when the
weaning was done and the old stock was all brought in close to
the cow camps, Jeff headed his wagon towards the home ranch once
more. The work was over, the remuda was turned out and the riders
that was kept on the pay-roll saddled their winter horses and
scattered out for the outfit's different camps.

Winter came on and set in, then spring bloomed out green once
again, and with it the cowboys spread out on the range once more.
Season after season followed one another without a ruffle that
way, the same territory was covered at the same time of the year,
the wagon rolled in at the same grounds, and the rope corral
stretched at the same spot, old riders disappeared and new ones
took their place, like with the ponies; the old cowhorses was
pensioned, replaced by younger ones and the work went On, season
after season, year after year, the same outfit rambled out of the
home ranch and combed the range like as if no changes was taking
place.

Jeff, the cow boss, the round-up cook, Clint, and a couple more
riders was all that was left of the old hands as the wagon pulled
out one spring;--the others 'd had cravings for new countries and
went and throwed their soogans on some other outfit's wagons.

Five years had went by since that day when Clint, riding Smoky,
had joined the wagon. Five summers was put in when every time
Smoky was saddled and rode Clint was the cowboy that done it. Not
another hand had touched Smoky's hide in that time, excepting
when Old Tom had _tried_ to appropriate the horse for his own
string, and since that day there hadn't been any excuse for Clint
to worry about anybody taking Smoky away from him. There wasn't a
cowboy in the outfit who didn't more than want the horse, and if
Clint ever failed to show up when the spring works started
there'd most likely been some argument as to who should get him;
but he'd always been the first to ride in at the home ranch at
them times and none had the chance to lay claim on the horse.

In them long summers, and as Smoky was rode off and on, the
little horse had got to know Clint as well as that cowboy knowed
hisself; he knowed just when Clint was a little under the weather
and not feeling good,--at them times he'd go kinda easy with his
bucking as the cowboy topped him off. The feel of Clint's hand
was plain reading to him, and he could tell by a light touch of
it whether it meant "go get 'er," "easy now," "good work," and so
on. The tone of his voice was also mighty easy to understand. He
could tell a lot of things by it, specially when he was being got
after for doing something, he shouldn't of done. His eyes was
wide open at them times, his neck bowed, and he'd snort sorta
low, but when Clint would tell him what a fine horse he was,
Smoky was some different,--he'd just take it all in the same as
he would warm sunshine in a cold fall day, and near close his
eyes for the peace he was feeling at the sound of the cowboy's
voice.

The way Smoky could understand the man who rode him thru and
around the big herds had a lot to do in making him the cowhorse
he'd turned out to be. His strong liking for the rider had made
him take interest and for learning all about whatever he was rode
out to do. There'd come a time when Smoky knowed the second Clint
had a critter spotted to be cut out, and the pony's instinct near
told him which one it was, till nary a feel of the rein was
needed and the dodging critter was stepped on and headed for the
"cut."

The same with roping and where Smoky could do near everything but
throw the rope that caught the critter. There he shined as he did
anywhere else under the saddle. He'd keep one ear back, watch out
and follow the loop leave Clint's hand and sail out to settle
around a steer's horns, and the slack was no more than pulled
when that pony would turn and go the other way,--he knowed how to
"lay" the critter, and none of the big ones ever got up, not
while Smoky was at one end of the rope.

Of the many happenings that all went to show of Smoky's knowing
how in handling the critter, there's one Clint and the boys liked
to tell of. It was only an average of the others that happened,
but there was something about that one which made the telling
easier as to the wonders of that horse. It was the detail that
counted there.

There was a big steer in the herd with a crooked horn which had
curved and threatened to grow some more and right thru his eye.
Clint and Jeff spotted the steer at the same time, and while one
of the boys went to the wagon to get a saw to cut the horn off
with, both Clint and Jeff took their ropes and proceeded to catch
the critter.

The steer was wild, big and husky, and wise, and soon as he seen
the two riders coming thru the herd headed his way, he broke out
of it and tail up in the air begin to leave the flat. About then
is when Smoky appeared on the scene.

That little horse et up the distance between him and that steer
in no time and soon carried Clint to within reach. On account of
the crooked horn Clint had to rope the steer around the neck, and
that he did neat and quick. Everything went on as it should,--
Smoky run on past the steer and Clint throwed the slack of his
rope over that same steer's rump and in another second that
critter would of been laying with toes up to the sky and ready to
tie.

The unexpected happened about that time, and when the rope
tightened the steer didn't lay at all. Instead there was a sound
of something ripping. Clint went up in the air about three feet,
turned a somerset and hit the ground, the saddle stood up on end
on Smoky's back and only the flank cinch was holding it there.
The stub latigo of the front cinch had been ripped right thru by
the tongue of the cinch buckle like it'd been paper.

Every rider around the herd seen the thing happen, and had
already figgered how it wouldn't take long for Smoky to get
himself out from under the remains of that saddle. For near every
horse would go to bucking and raising the dust when being pinched
around the flanks that way, and Smoky had seemed so inclined to
want to buck that it was thought he'd never overlook that chance.

The boys was already grinning at such a good promise of seeing a
little excitement, but the grins soon faded to looks of wonder,
For Smoky, instead of trying to get shed of the saddle, showed he
was using his brain to the best way of _keeping it there_. He was
a cowhorse and working, and it was no time for foolishness, so,
when the rigging reared up on his hind quarters that way he
reared up with it, and turned while in the air. When his front
feet touched the ground again the saddle was where it belonged
and he was facing the steer.

When that story was told to the country around there was many
hard-to-be-convinced riders, who laughed and shook their heads
and remarked how it was pure luck that the pony acted that way,
but if they'd knowed Smoky, if they'd seen how he juggled that
saddle and worked to keep his holt on the steer, there'd been a
different tune.

The steer had stayed up and with his ten hundred pounds of wild
weight had fought at the rope and hit the end mighty hard. Then
Smoky done another thing and which kept the boys a staring and
doing nothing. The steer was making another wild dash for open
country, and Smoky, instead of holding his ground and waiting for
the steer to hit the end of the rope broke out in a sudden run
and right after the critter. When the speed of both of 'em was up
good and high, Smoky of a sudden planted himself till his hocks
touched the ground, and when Mr. Steer hit the end of the rope
that time it was just as tho that rope had been fastened to a
four foot stump. His head was jerked under him, he turned in the
air, and when he came down _he layed_.

"There was only one thing that horse didn't do," Jeff had
remarked afterwards,--"he didn't give the rope a flip before he
set down on it."

Smoky had kept the rope tight and Clint tied the steer down to
stay till the crooked horn was sawed off. When that was done
Clint put up a hand and spoke, and Smoky gave slack so the rope
could be pulled off the steer's head.

Big herds of Mexico long-horned steers had been bought by the
Rocking R and shipped up into that northern country. They got fat
on that range and wilder than ever, and there's where Smoky
showed he had something else besides the knowing how. Them
long-horned critters are too fast for the average cowhorse to
catch up with in a short distance, but not with Smoky;--he had
the speed to go with what he knowed, and Clint would have time to
whirl his rope only a few times when the little horse would climb
up on the long legged steer and pack the cowboy within roping
distance.

Many a cowboy had remarked that it was worth the price of a good
show to watch Smoky work, whether it was around, in or out of a
herd; and many a rider had let a cow sneak past him just so he
could see how neat that pony could outdodge a critter. And when
after the last meal of the day and the cowboys stretched out to
rest some, talk, or sing, none ever had any argument to put up
and no betting was ever done against whatever Clint said Smoky
could do or had done. They all knowed and admired the horse, and
came a time as these cowboys came and went that Smoky begin to be
talked about in the cow camps of other cow outfits. One whole
northern State got to hear of him, and one cowboy wasn't at all
surprised when hitting South one fall and close to the Mexican
border to hear another cowboy talk of "Smoky of the Rocking R."

The owner of a neighbor outfit sent word by one of the "reps" *
one day that he'd give a hundred dollars for that horse; Smoky
had been broke only two years then. Old Tom laughed at the offer,
and Clint got peeved. The next year that offer was raised by the
same party to two hundred, and Old Tom laughed again, but Clint
didn't know whether to get mad or scared this time. Anyway,
things went on as usual for a couple of years more, and then a
big outfit from acrost the state line sent in an offer of a cool
four hundred dollars for the mouse colored cowhorse.

------
* Riders representing other outfits
------

Good saddle horses could be bought by the carload for fifty
dollars a head about that time, but there never was no set price
on a good cowhorse, and as a rule that kind can't be bought
unless an outfit is selling out. The biggest price that was ever
heard offered in that country for any cowhorse had never went
over two hundred, and when rumors spread around that four hundred
had been offered for Smoky many figgered that whoever offered it
had a lot of money to spend;--but them who figgered that way had
never seen Smoky work.

Old Tom came up to Clint that fall after the wagon had pulled in,
and showed him the letter offering the four hundred. Clint had
heard about the offer and he just stargazed at the letter, not
reading;--instead he was doing some tall wondering at what Old
Tom was going to do about it. He was still stargazing and sort of
waiting for the blow to fall, when he felt the old cowman's hand
on his shoulder, and then heard him say:

"Well, Clint, I'll tell you"--then Old Tom waited a while, maybe
just to sort of aggravate the cowboy, but finally he went
on,--"if my cattle was starving, and I needed the money to buy
feed to pull 'em thru with, I might _sacrifice_ Smoky for four
hundred, but as things are now there's no money can buy that
horse."

The cowboy smiled, took a long breath, and grabbed the paw the
old man was holding for him to shake.

"But I'm hoping," resumed Old Tom, "that some day soon you'll get
to hankering to drift to some other country and quit this outfit,
so I can get Smoky for myself; I'd fired you long ago, only I'd
have to fire Jeff too, and somehow I'd rather get along without
the horse till one of you highbinders quit."

Clint had kept a smiling all the while the old man was speaking,
then he gave his hand another shake and walked away. He knowed
Old Tom had said that last just to hear how his voice sounded.

As usual, Smoky was turned out on the range along with the
remuda for that winter. Clint had helped haze 'em to the breaks
as he'd always done, and noticed as he stopped and let the ponies
graze and scatter that the feed was mighty short and scarcer than
he'd ever seen it. The whole summer had been mighty dry and the
range short on grass, but this little scope of country that was
the saddle horse range had always been good, and the ponies had
always wintered there better than if they'd been in a warm stable
and fed grain.

Clint thought some of taking Smoky back with him and keeping him
up for a winter horse, but then he'd have to turn him out when
spring works came on, and the cowboy didn't want to think of
going out on spring round-up without his "top horse."

"No," he decided, "I'm going to let you run out this winter, but
I'll be out to see how you're making it and don't lose too much
tallow. You're getting to be too valuable a horse to take any
chances of losing," he says to him as he scratched him back of
the ear--"but," he went on, "you're not half as valuable to the
outfit as you are to me, old pony, even tho Old Tom won't
consider no price on you."

Clint was on his way back and had no more than got sight of the
buildings of the ranch when Old White Winter hit him from behind
and made him clap his gloved hands over his ears.

"Holy smoke," he whistled thru his chattering teeth, "she's sure
starting ferocious."

And she had,--the first initiating blizzard of the season was
more than just a snowstorm with a wind, it was a full grown
blizzard drifting over the country, covering up the feed with
packed snow, and freezing things up. It kept up for two days and
nights, and as it cleared up, the thermometer went down. The next
day Clint was busy bringing in old stock closer to the ranch and
where they could be watched, and as another blizzard hit the
country again a few days later that cowboy was kept on the jump
bringing under the sheds and next to the haystacks all the stock
he'd hunted up.

Clint was in the saddle all day every day, and sometimes away
into the night. A month went by and in that time two feet of snow
had accumulated on the range;--more was threatening to come, and
all the cowboys that was kept on the Rocking R payroll more than
had their hands full. The ranch hands would roll up their eyes at
every bunch of stock the riders brought in to be fed, for as they
figgered they already had all they could handle, and if this kept
up, Old Tom would have to hire more hay shovelers and buy more
hay.

Clint had worried some about Smoky and figgered to hunt him up
sometime, but as on account of the deep snow he couldn't get his
horse out of a walk, he never could make it. Besides there was
always a bunch of cattle somewheres on the way, and amongst 'em
there'd be a few that needed bringing in.

But with all them drawbacks, Clint finally reached Smoky's range
late one day. The gray sky was getting darker, and night was
coming on as the cowboy topped a ridge and spotted a bunch of
ponies. Amongst the bunch was a long-haired, shaggy-looking, and
lean mouse-colored horse, and Clint could hardly believe his eyes
or keep from choking as he rode closer and recognized his Smoky
horse.

The cowboy was for catching the horse right there and bring him
in to the ranch. He wondered if Smoky could travel that far, but
as the horse raised his head out of the hole in the snow where
he'd been pawing for feed, and spotted the rider coming towards
him, Clint was surprised to see so much strength and action.
Smoky hadn't recognized the cowboy, and before he'd took a second
look, he'd hightailed it from there in a hurry.

Clint watched him and smiled as he seen that the horse wasn't in
near as bad a shape as he'd first thought.

"But I'm going to take you in just the same, you little son of a
gun, for God knows what you'll be like in a few weeks from now if
this weather keeps up."

He started on the trail Smoky and the other ponies had left, it
was good and dark by then, but the trail in the deep snow was
easy enough to follow. He wondered as he rode if he could get
Smoky to stand long enough so as the horse would recognize him
under all the disguise of his winter clothes, for at night
especially he looked more like a bear than anything; then again,
horses are spookier and harder to get near at that time. Clint
had his doubts if he could catch him, and he figgered he'd most
likely have to take the whole bunch along in order to get him to
the ranch.

He was riding along on the trail and trying to get sight of the
ponies, when to his left just a little ways, and out of the snow,
came a faint beller. It sounded like a critter in trouble, and
Clint stopped his horse. The beller came again, and he rode
towards the sound. All curled up, shivering, and near covered
with snow, a little bitty calf was found,--couldn't been over
two days old, figgered the cowboy, and he wondered how the poor
little cuss could still be alive.

"Where's your mammy, Johnny?" says Clint as he got off his horse
and came near the calf.

But the words was no more out of his mouth when a dark shadow
appeared, and bellering, tried to get to the cowboy with her
horns before he could get on his horse. In making his getaway,
Clint noticed tracks of more cattle, and following 'em a ways,
come acrost another cow and with another calf, only this second
calf was older and more able to navigate.

"These two wall-eyed heifers must of been missed during last
fall's round-up," Clint figgered, "and just as luck would have it
they both have winter calves. Well, Smoky," he says as he looked
the direction the ponies had went, "I guess that leaves you out,
_this time_."

It was near noon the next day when Clint showed up at the ranch
packing a little calf on the front of his saddle. He found Jeff
by the big sheds where the cattle was sheltered and fed, and told
him:

"I had to leave this little feller's mammy out about ten miles.
There's another cow and young calf with 'er, and maybe you better
send a man out after 'em before this storm that's coming catches
up with 'em. Me, I'm going to eat the whole hind leg off a beef
and roll in between my soogans."

That storm Clint had spoke of came sure enough, and seemed like
to want to clean the earth of all that drawed a breath, the snow
piled up and up till, as the cowboy remarked, "the fence posts
around the ranch are only sticking up about an inch, and soon
won't be visible no more."

That storm would of meant the death of all the cattle that was on
the range, and most of the horses too, but as the tail of it
came, a high wind sprung up, the snow drifted and piled high in
the coulees, and at the same time took the depth of it down
considerable wherever that wind hit. When it all finally quit
raging, there was many patches where the grass was buried only by
a few inches, and them patches the wind had cleared was what
saved the lives of the range stock that winter.

Clint had worried about Smoky as the stormy weather came on; he'd
tried time and time again to get to him, but always some helpless
critter made him branch off and finally turn back. "To-morrow,"
Clint kept a saying, but the "To-morrows" came and went and the
cowboy, always a fretting, hadn't got near Smoky's range.

The great liking Clint had for the mouse colored horse made him
fret and worry more than was necessary. That liking made him
imagine a lot that was nowheres near true, and many a time that
cowboy rolled in his bunk, tired, and wore out, and dreamed of
seeing Smoky caught in a snow bank, weak, starving, and wolves
drawing near.

Smoky had sure enough lost considerable fat, and his strength was
reduced some too, but he was nowheres weak;--that is, not so weak
that he couldn't get up easy once he layed down, or be able to
travel and rustle for his feed. The last big storm had took him
down some more, but he was still able to plow thru the snow banks
that'd gathered on the sides of the ridges, and get on the other
side where the feed was easier reached.

If it didn't snow too much more there was no danger for Smoky and
the bunch he was with. Him and Pecos had got to know that range
so well, they knowed where the best of shelter could be found
when the winds was cold or the blizzard howled, and then again,
they knowed of many ridges and where the snow was always the
thinnest. They had a spot to fit in with or against whatever the
weather had to hand out, and whether the next on the program was
to be sunshine or more snow, they was still well able to enjoy or
compete with either.

Weeks had passed since Smoky had raised his head out of the
hollow in the snow and spotted the rider, who'd been Clint,
coming onto him; and then one day, here comes another rider.
Smoky had been the first to spot that other rider, and as was
natural him and the rest of the bunch made tracks away from there
and till the rider couldn't be seen no more.

A mile or so on, the bunch went to pawing snow and grazing again.
Night was coming on, a wind was raising, and pretty soon light
flakes of snow begin to come. Then, when night was well on, and
as the wind got stronger and the snow heavier, the rider showed
up again, right in the middle of the bunch this time and before
Smoky or any of the others could see him. The ponies scattered
like a bunch of quail at the sight of him and so close, but they
soon got together again, and on a high lope went along with the
storm.

The rider followed on after 'em, and as mile after mile of
snow-covered country was left behind, the ponies realized there
was no dodging _him_. Heavy drifts was lunged into and hit on a
high run as they tried to leave him behind, and then as they'd
cross creek bottoms a mile or so wide, and where the snow was
from two to three feet deep, the run begin to tell on 'em. They
finally slowed down to a trot, and as the rider wasn't pressing
'em any, there came a time when going at a walk seemed plenty
fast. They was getting tired.

The night wore on with 'em a traveling that way. The heavy wind
pushed 'em on and their long hair was matted with snow, but
tired, and hard as the deep snow was to buck thru, it all seemed
better to drift on that way than stand still in such as the storm
had turned out to be. They drifted on, not minding the rider much
no more. Then after a while it begin to get light, slow and
gradual; the new day come, and the rider, finding a thick patch
of willows, let the ponies drift in the shelter. He tried to look
on the back trail as he let 'em drift, and he grinned as the
thick stinging snow blurred his view.

"That old blizzard will sure do the work of covering up my
trail," he remarked as he looked for a sheltered spot amongst the
willows.

He soon found the sheltered spot and where the wind was more
heard than felt; and getting off his tired horse begin tamping
himself a place where he could move around a little and not have
the snow up to his waist. He tied his horse up where he'd be
within easy reach, and soon had a fire started out of dead willow
twigs. Rice and "jerky" was cooked in a small lard bucket, and et
out of the same. When that was gone, a few handfuls of snow was
melted in the same bucket and coffee was made. Then a cigarette
was rolled, a few puffs drawed out of it, and the man, curled up
by the fire, was soon asleep.

All of him, from the toe to his gunny-sack covered boots to the
dark face which showed under the wore out black hat, pointed out
as the man being a half breed of Mexican and other blood that's
darker; and noticing the cheap, wore out saddle, the ragged
saddle-blanket on a horse that should of had some chance to feed
instead of being tied up, showed that he was a halfbreed from the
_bad_ side, not caring, and with no pride.

He slept, feeling sure that no rider would be on his trail in
this kind of weather; for the trail he'd made was wiped out and
covered over near as soon as he made it, and as for the horses
he'd stole, he knowed they wouldn't be facing this storm and
trying to go back; they'd be more for staying in shelter instead
and try to find something to eat.

Seventeen head of Rocking R saddle stock, counting Smoky, was
half a mile or so further down the creek bottom from where the
half breed was sleeping. They hugged the thick willows for the
shelter they'd give, and feed off the small green branches, the
rye grass, and everything they could reach which they could chew
on. Smoky and Pecos, side by side, rustled on thru the deep snow,
sometimes ahead and sometimes behind the other horses, all a
nosing around or pawing for whatever little feed could be found.
But many cattle had been there ahead of 'em, and when darkness
came on they showed near as drawed as they'd been that morning.

The snowing had let up some during the day, but as night drawed
near the wind got stronger. The snow was drifting, and there'd be
another night of travel when no trail would be left to show.

The breed woke up, looked around and grinned, then got up and
shook himself. The fire was started again, another bait was
cooked and consumed, and after all was gathered, he mounted his
horse and went to looking for the ponies he'd left to graze down
the creek bottom. He run onto 'em a couple of miles further an'
where he'd figgered they'd be; and as dark settled over the snow
covered range, he fell in behind 'em and started 'em on the way.

An hour or so of traveling, and then Smoky, who was in the lead,
found himself between the wings of a corral, a corral that was
made of willows and well hid. The breed had built it for _his_
_purpose_, and signs showed that it'd been used many a time
before. Long willow poles made the gate, and after he run the
ponies in, and put up the poles, he went after his rope on his
saddle.

Many a brand had been changed in that corral, and on both horse
and cow. Other times he'd used it just to change horses, and
that's what he wanted just now, a fresh horse. He wasn't changing
for the sake of the tired horse he'd been riding, it was just
that he didn't want to take chances of having a tired horse under
him in case somebody jumped him.

His loop was made, and thru the dark he was trying to see just
what horse to put his rope on. The white background helped him
considerable in making out the shapes of the ponies, and there
was one shape he was looking out for before he let his loop sail,
the shape of a mouse colored blazed faced horse which he'd
noticed and watched all along. Pretty soon, and furthest away
from him, he got a glimpse of Smoky's head,--he recognized the
white streak on his forehead, and his rope sailed.

Smoky snorted and ducked, the rope just grazed his ears, and went
on to settle over another horse's head. In the dark, the breed
couldn't follow his rope, and he didn't know but what he'd caught
Smoky till he pulled on the rope and brought the horse to him. He
cussed considerable as he seen he'd caught another horse than the
one he wanted, but as he noticed that this horse was good size
and strong looking, he let it go at that, and didn't take time to
make another try for Smoky.

"I'll get you next time, you--" he says as he looked Smoky's way
and saddled the horse he'd caught.

Letting the poles down, the breed mounted the fresh horse, let
the ponies out, and turned 'em out of the creek bottom onto a
long bench. The strong winds had blowed most all the snow off
there, and excepting for a few low places where it had piled
deep, traveling was made easy. He kept the ponies on a trot most
of the night, and sometimes where the snow wasn't too deep he'd
crowd 'em into a lope.

Steady, the gait was kept up, and finally, after the breed seen
that the ponies was too tired and weak to travel much more, he
begin to look for a place where he could hide 'em and where they
could rustle feed during the day that was soon to come. On the
other end of the ridge he was following, he knowed of a place;
and taking down his rope, he snapped it at the tired ponies and
kept 'em on the move till that place was reached. There, another
stop was made.

The storm had dwindled down and wore out till nothing was left
but the high wind. It kept the snow drifting, which would keep on
covering tracks and make traveling easier. But the breed didn't
need the storm to help him no more, for, as he figgered, the
country ahead and where he was headed was all open. He expected
no riders would be found on the way at that time of the year, and
as he'd been on that route many a time before with stolen stock,
he knowed just how far it was between each good hiding and
stopping place, both for himself and stock.

There was corrals on the way, some built by him, and others built
by more of his kind. Sometimes he would change the iron on the
ponies he'd just stole, but as the hair was too long for anybody
to be able to read the brand that was on 'em, that could wait a
while till he got further away and he could travel in daytime
more.

He was pleased with everything in general as he left the ponies
and started hunting a shelter for himself. He grinned, satisfied,
as he melted snow for his coffee and figgered on the price the
ponies would bring. He knowed good horses, and even tho they was
in poor shape now he knowed what they'd turn out to be after a
month's time on green grass.

And then there was "Smoky," that mouse colored horse;--he'd heard
how four hundred dollars had been offered for that pony, and
allowed that some other cowman to the south would be glad to give
at least half that price for him, once it was showed what a
cowhorse he really was.

A few hundred miles to the south was the breed's hangout, a place
in a low country and where the snow hardly stayed. Once there he
could take it easy, let the ponies fatten up, and after the brand
was well "blotched" so nobody would recognize the original, he'd
sell 'em one at a time for a good price or ship 'em out to some
horse dealer. In the meantime he had nothing to worry about, the
storm had took his trail off the face of the earth, there was a
good seventy miles between him and where he'd started with the
horses, and near a hundred miles to the Rocking R home ranch.



CHAPTER XI

"THE FEEL OF A STRANGE HAND"


A long month had passed since Clint had rode out to get Smoky and
came back with a calf instead. Every day since, that cowboy had
been for going after Smoky again, but the deep snow and storms
had more than kept him breaking trails for snowbound cattle that
was weak and needed bringing in. He couldn't find no time and
hadn't been able to frame no excuse so as he could hit out for
Smoky's range. Then one morning he got up with a hunch. He tried
to keep it down, but every morning it got stronger till finally
Clint just had to saddle up the best horse he had, and hit out
for where Smoky had been wintering.

The last big storm had let up a few days before, and many fresh
tracks covered the horse range. Clint trailed and trailed; he
found and went thru many bunches of ponies, but no Smoky. Even
the bunch that pony was running with when last seen had seemed to
evaporate into thin air, and there Clint wondered. He wondered if
somebody'd stole him and the bunch, but he put that off,
figgering that no horse thief would steal horses packing as well
known a brand as the Rocking R, unless he was a daggone fool, or
a daggone good one. Anyway, as worried as Clint was, he felt some
relieved in not finding the bunch Smoky had been with; for if
he'd found them and no Smoky, that'd been proof enough that the
pony had went and died somewheres. The other ponies he'd seen
that day still looked good and strong, and that was proof enough
that Smoky must be the same.

"Most likely him and his bunch just drifted with that last storm
and went back to their home range," Clint thought, as he headed
his horse back for the ranch; but the hunch that was still with
him didn't seem to agree with that thought none at all.

Two weeks later found the cowboy on the horse range once more,
and making a bigger circle; but Smoky and his bunch still kept
being amongst the missing. He told Old Tom about it as he got
back to the ranch that night, but the old man didn't seem
worried; he waved a hand as Clint said how he'd finally got to
believe that the whole bunch had been stole.

"Don't worry," he says, "we'll find him and all the rest during
horse round-up."

Finally, spring broke up, the deep drifts started to melting and
the creeks begin to raise. Then after a while, and when the
"hospital stuff" * had been turned out on the range a couple of
weeks, riders begin stringing out towards the horse range and
gathering the remuda. Clint lined out by himself and hit for the
country where Smoky had been raised. He reached the camp where
he'd started breaking him, and from there he rode, every morning
with a fresh horse and running down every bunch of stock horses a
hoping to get sight of the mouse colored gelding.

--------
* The old cattle which 'd been kept and fed under the sheds thru
the winter.
--------

He rode for a week and seen every horse that was on that range,
strays and all; and finally after he'd combed the whole country
where Smoky had run as a colt, he rode back to the ranch, feeling
disappointed but a hoping that the other riders had found him.

The remuda was in the big corrals, when he got there,--all of it,
excepting for the seventeen head which couldn't be found
nowheres. Smoky was one of the seventeen.

There was a few more days riding, and then of a sudden Old Tom
decided Clint had been right, the horses was sure enough stolen.
His big car hit only the high spots as the old man headed for
town. Jack rabbits was passed by and left behind the same as if
they'd been tied, and when he hit the main street he was doing
seventy. He put on his brakes and passed the sheriff's office by
half a block, but he left his car there, and hoofed on a high run
all the way back.

That official was notified of the theft, and notified to notify
other officials of the State and other States around; and Old Tom
stuck close to see that that was done and mighty quick. A
thousand dollars reward was offered for the thief, and the same
reward for the return of the horses, naming one mouse colored
saddle horse as special.

The spring round-up went by, summer, and then the fall round-up
and the close of the season's work. Nothing of Smoky, nor any of
the ponies he'd run with or the horse thief was heard of. It
seemed like one and all had left the earth for good, and if what
all Old Tom often wished on the thief could of come true, that
hombre would of sure found himself in a mighty hot place.

Clint rode on for the Rocking R thru that summer and fall, and
always as he rode, he kept an eye on the country around and
hoping that sometimes he'd run acrost his _one_ horse, Smoky. He
didn't want to think that the horse had been stolen, and he kept
a saying to himself as he rode: "He's just strayed away
somewheres." There wasn't a draw, coulee, or creek bottom passed
by without the whole of it was looked into; and never before was
the Rocking R country looked into so well. Every rider, on down
to the wrangler, kept his eyes peeled for the mouse colored
horse; and even tho cattle is what the wagons was out for, there
was more eyes out for Smoky, and cattle was only brought in as
second best.

It wasn't till fall round-up was near over that Clint begin
losing all hope of ever seeing Smoky again in _that_ country, and
as them hopes left him, there came a hankering for him to move.
Maybe it was just to be moving and riding on some other range for
a change, but back of it all, and if Clint had stopped to figger
some, he'd found that his hankering to move wasn't only for
seeing new territory,--there was a faint hope away deep, that
some day, somewheres, he'd find Smoky.

For that pony had got tangled up in the cowboy's heartstrings a
heap more than that cowboy wanted to let on, even to himself. He
couldn't get away from _how_ he missed him. He'd thought of him
when on day herd and how the horse had seemed to understand every
word he'd said. On the cutting grounds, he'd kept a comparing
whatever horse he'd be riding with Smoky, and find that pony (no
matter how good he was) a mighty poor excuse of a cow-horse
alongside of the mouse colored pony that was missing.

But all them good points of Smoky's was nothing as compared to
the rest of what that horse really had been as a horse, and
there's where Smoky had got under Clint's hide, _as a horse_, one
in a thousand.

The last of the wagons had trailed into the home ranch, and the
next day, the remuda was hazed out to the winter range. Clint
wasn't along that fall to see the ponies turned loose. Instead he
was in the big bunk house at the home ranch, and busy stuffing
his saddle into a gunny sack. A railroad map was spread on the
floor and which the cowboy had been studying.

Jeff opened the door of the bunk house and took in at a glance
what all Clint was up to. He noticed the railroad map laying by
his foot and smiled.

"I figgered you would," he says, "now that Smoky is not with the
outfit no more."

The first of winter had come and hit the high mountains of the
southern country. Big, dark clouds had drifted in, drenched the
ranges down to bedrock with a cold rain, and hung on for days.
Then the rain had gradually turned to a wet snow, kept a falling
steady, and without a break, till it seemed like the country
itself was shivering under the spell.

Finally, and after many long days, the dark clouds begin to get
lighter and lighter and started lifting and drifting on. Then one
evening, the sun got a chance to peek thru and smile at the
country again. It went down a smiling that way, and after it
disappeared over the blue ridge, a new moon took its place for a
spell, and like as to promise that the sun would smile again the
next day. Clint'd keep on comparing whatever horse he'd be riding
with Smoky.

And it did; it came up bright and real fitting to that Arizona
country. The air was clear as spring water in a granite pool, and
as still. The whole world seemed dozing and just contented to
take on all the warmth and life the sun was giving. A mountain
lion was stretched out on a boulder, warm and comfortable, where
the day before he'd been in his den all curled up and shivering.
Then a few deer come out of their shelter, hair on end and still
wet thru, but as they reached the sunny side of the mountain it
wasn't long when it dried again, and layed smooth.

Further down the mountain and more on the foothills, a little
chipmunk stuck his head out of his winter quarters and blinked at
the sun. He blinked at it for quite a spell like not believing,
and pretty soon came out to make sure. He stood up, rolled in the
warm dirt, and in more ways than one made up for the long days
he'd holed away. Other chipmunks came out, and then he went
visiting. More seeds was gathered as he went from bush to bush
and even tho he already had a mighty big supply already stored
away, he worked on as tho he was afraid of running short long
before spring come.

He was at his busiest, and tearing a pine cone apart for the nuts
he'd find inside, when he hears something a tearing thru the
brush and coming his way. Away he went and hightailed it towards
his hole, and he'd no more than got there when he gets a glimpse
of what looked like a mountain of a horse and running for all he
was worth.---A long rope was dragging from his neck.

The chipmunk went down as far in his hole as he could, stood
still and listened a minute, and then storing away the nuts he'd
gathered, stuck his head out once more. He chirped considerable
as he looked around to see if any more out of the ordinary or
dangerous looking was in sight, and he'd just had time to blink
at the scenery a couple of times, when he gets a glimpse of
another horse,--this one was packing a man, and at the same speed
went right on the trail the other had left.

The chipmunk never wondered what this running was all about, he
just chirped and ducked out of sight; but it wasn't long when he
stuck his head out again and gradually showed all of himself. He
stood up on a rock close to his hole, and looking around from
there, he could see two objects out towards the flat, moving
fast, and seeming like one trying to catch up with the other. He
watched 'em, till a raise finally took 'em out of sight; then he
watched some more and in other directions, and seeing nothing
that'd need watching, he went to visiting again and to gathering
more nuts.

Out on the flat, and on the other side of the raise, the two
objects went on. How glad that one object in the lead would of
been to've changed places with the chipmunk and like him been
able to crawl down a hole and hide for a spell. For hours and
hours thru the night he'd been trailed. His hoofs had sunk deep
into the mud every step he'd took, but acrost foothills and adobe
flats he'd went on, always the human close behind.

Twice that human'd disappeared and he'd took hope, but soon he'd
show up again, and mounted on a fresh horse would chase him some
more. A rope had settled around his neck once,--he'd fought till
it broke, and run on a dragging it.

He was getting tired, mighty tired, and beginning to feel with
each step he took that the country was in cahoots with the man
and trying to hold him back. His feet went ankle deep in the
soft, rain-soaked ground, and pulling out and placing 'em ahead
steady, on and on, was getting to be more and more of an effort.

Once again the man disappeared, only to show up mounted on
another fresh horse. The man's relay string had been well placed
and as the horse he'd been chasing was getting tired, and easier
right along to turn the way he wanted him, he could near see how
the end of the chase was going to be.

The sun was getting well up in the sky when skirting along the
foothills and going thru a thick bunch of cedars, the tired horse
noticed dead cedars piled up in a way that made a fence. Any
other time he'd whirled at the sight and went some other way, but
his vision wasn't very clear no more, nor was his brain working
very good. He'd went on his nerves and kept on long after his
muscles had hollered "quit," and he'd got to the point where he
was running because something away back in his mind kept a
telling him that he should, really not knowing why. He was past
caring where he went, and even if the rider behind had stopped
and quit, he'd kept on running just the same and till he'd
dropped.

He followed the cedar fence hardly realizing it was there. Then
from the other side of him appeared another fence. It gradually
pinched in on him as he went, till finally both fences led up to
a gate and into a corral hid in the thick trees. There he
stopped, realizing somehow that he couldn't go no further, and
legs wide apart, breathing hard, sweat a dripping from every part
of him, he stood still.

The halfbreed closed the pole gate, and turned looking at the
horse.

"Now, you ornery mouse colored hunk of meanness, I guess I got
you."

But Smoky, eyes half closed and not seeing, head near touching
the ground, and the rest of him trying hard to stay up, never
seemed to hear.

Many months had passed and many things happened since Smoky had
been hazed away from his home range on the Rocking R. There'd
been long nights of traveling when many miles was covered and
very little feed was got on the way. Then long, weary miles of
travel had accumulated till near a thousand of 'em separated him
from the country where he'd been born and raised.

Many strange looking hills and flats he'd crossed as he was kept
on the go with Pecos and the rest of the bunch, and when he'd
come to the desert it'd been a great relief. The deep snow had
gradually been left behind by then and the bare sagebrush flats
had took the place of the snow covered prairie. Many bunches of
wild ponies had been seen on the way, and once in a while a
little bunch of cattle was passed by. The country had kept a
changing; from rolling prairie it went to low hills, low hills to
mountains, and on the other side more low hills and then
sagebrush. The sagebrush had stayed in the landscape from then on
and only added some yuccas as the southern country was reached,
then spanish dagger, barrel cactus, and catclaw.

Finally a wide river in a deep canyon of many colors had been
reached and swimmed acrost. A few days more travel, and then it
seemed like Smoky and the bunch had got _there_,--anyway there'd
been no more travelling. The next day, the half breed had
corralled all the ponies, and with a running iron blotched the
Rocking R brand over with what looked like a wagon wheel. The
original brand was disfiggured complete, and then the horses was
shoved up on a high knoll while the new brand healed. The knoll
was a high flat mesa, with rimrocks all around and where it could
be got up on only in one place. That place had then been closed
with a rope and a blanket stretched over it. There was good feed
up there, and enough snow and rain water in a natural reservoir
to last many days.

All would of been well for Smoky, and the long trip with the
bucking of snow, hard traveling, and all with the changes of the
country would of been took in as it comes; but along with that
trip, there'd growed something between that pony's ears which had
got to chafe. It was a hate, a hate with poison and all for the
breed that'd kept him and the others on the move.

Smoky was born with a natural fear and hate of the human. He'd
carried it always, excepting when Clint, _that one man_, was
around; but hating humans had never bothered him, not till the
dark face of the breed had showed itself over the skyline.

With him in sight, that hate had got to grow till murder showed
in his eye, and the little fear that was still with him was all
that'd kept him from doing damage to the dark complected human
that'd trailed along behind all the way. He'd boiled over to
himself, stayed in the lead, and far away from the breed as he
could.

The breed had throwed a rope at him one day, and missed. Smoky
had never been missed that way before, and from that once he'd
learned that by ducking at the right time there was such a thing
as dodging a rope. The next day the breed had throwed his rope at
him again, and Smoky, watching, had ducked at the right time and
once more the loop had missed. The breed begin cussing as he
spread another loop and tried to place it around Smoky's neck,
but his cussing didn't do him any good, and the loop had fell
short a foot from the dodging pony's head.

Smoky would of enjoyed all that, if he hadn't meant it so much;
and what's more the breed had got ferocious, which all made
things more serious for the horse. He'd hated the sound of that
breed's voice as that hombre, fighting his head, and cussing for
all he was worth, had coiled up his rope once more and made ready
for another try.

And in that third throw the breed had fooled Smoky. He'd swung
his rope like as to throw it, but the loop had never left his
hands. Smoky had dodged and dodged thinking sure that the rope
had come, but it never had, and finally when he'd quit dodging,
it did come, and with the speed of a "blue racer" had circled
around his neck.

Smoky had fought like a trapped grizzly as the rope had drawed
up, and the breed had to take a few turns around a corral post to
hold him.

"I'll fix you now, you--"

Cussing a blue streak, the breed had broke a limb off the willows
that hung over the corral, and coming towards Smoky had been for
showing that horse who was boss. He'd went to work, and tried to
break the limb over the fighting pony's head. Orneriness had
stuck up in the breed's gizzard, and anything would be done, even
killing the horse right there would of been hunkydory so long as
he could ease his feelings some.

He'd pounded and pounded till the limb begin to break, and as
he'd noticed it give that way he was going to keep on till it did
break, but there again, luck had been against him. The rope
that'd held Smoky went and separated at the honda and set the
horse free.

The breed had raved on some more at seeing his victim getting
away, and throwed the club after him as the pony staggered back
amongst the other ponies; and then somehow realizing that then
was no time to fool with ornery horses, the breed had caught
another horse.

"I'll tend to you some more," he hollered at Smoky, and getting
on the other horse he'd let the bunch out and started 'em on the
trail.

Two hundred miles of that trail was covered, and in the time it
took to cover that distance, Smoky had fed on hate for the breed
till that hate growed to a disease. Killing the breed would be
all that could cure it. Every blow that human had pounded on his
head that day, a couple of weeks past, had left a scar, a scar
that healed on the surface, but which went to his heart instead,
spread there, and stayed raw.

Then one day, on the edge of a big desert flat and amongst the
junipers, the breed spotted a high, strong, corral. A log cabin
with smoke coming out of the chimney was off to one side a ways,
and standing in the door was a man, the first man the breed had
seen since starting out with the stolen horses. But he felt safe,
five hundred miles had been covered, the brands on the horses had
all been "picked"* and besides, as he figgered, it'd be a good
place to stop a while and recuperate; and as he seen the place
was a cow camp, he thought maybe he could get the cowboy to help
him some with that mouse colored horse he was still wanting to
"tend" to and packing a grudge against.

------
* Changed for a time by just cutting the hair.
------

The cowboy wasn't much for the breed the minute that hombre rode
up, but as company was scarce, he kinda stood him, and even
agreed to help him with the horse.

Smoky watched the two walk in the corral the next day, and knowed
something was up. His ears layed back at the sight of the breed
and hate showed from every part of him;--he was ready to fight,
and if anything he was glad of the chance.

But Smoky had no chance, too many ropes settled on him at once,
and the first thing he knowed, he was flat on his side and tied
down before he could use either hoof or teeth.

The horse was no more than down and helpless, when the breed,
seeing his victim within reach and where he couldn't get away,
begin to get rid of what'd been on his chest for so long, and
when Smoky even tho tied down, reached over and near pulled the
shirt off of him with his teeth, was when the breed figgered he
had an excuse to beat that horse to a pulp even tho the horse had
no chance.

The cowboy, not understanding the breed's tactics for a spell,
stood off a ways, and watched. There was all about the horse to
show that he'd been right in his first dislike for the dark faced
hombre. At first he was for interfering and shove the club the
breed was using right down his throat. Then as he noticed how the
pony would like to do the damaging instead, he thought of a
better way and walked up.

"Listen, feller," he says to the breed, "what's the use of
beating a horse up that way. Why don't you give him a chance and
try to do it _while you're setting on him_?"

"Maybe you think I can't do it," says that hornbre, bleary-eyed
and mad clear thru.

The scheme had worked fine--the cowboy grinned to himself as he
helped the breed put the saddle on Smoky. Once he'd got a little
too close to that pony's head while helping that way, and that
horse come within an inch of getting his arm, the cowboy
overlooked it, and to himself remarked: "the poor devil had sure
got a reason to be mean, and I guess he's at the point where he
figgers no human is his friend any more."

The cowboy was right, anything on two legs, whether it was the
breed or any other human, had sure enough got to be Smoky's
enemy,--a crethure to scatter into dust and put out of the way
whenever a chance showed up.

The saddle was cinched on, and while the breed was getting as
much of the seat under him as he could, the cowboy took off the
foot ropes, and soon as the last coil was pulled away, he made
long steps for the highest part of the corral and where he could
watch everything to _his heart's content_.

The cowboy had no more than reached the top pole of the corral
when a sudden commotion, which sounded like a landslide, made him
turn. Smoky had come up, and at last given a chance had more than
started to make use of it. It was his turn to do some pounding,
and he done it with the saddle that was on his back and which
went with every crooked and hard hitting jump he made.

The breed had rode many hard horses and he was a good rider, but
he soon found that Smoky was a harder horse to set than any he'd
ever rode before; and as good a rider as he was there was many a
twist brought in that he couldn't keep track of. They kept a
coming too fast, and it wasn't long when he begin to feel that
setting in that saddle on such a horse was no place for him. The
saddle horn and cantle was taking turns and hitting him from all
sides, till he didn't know which way he was setting. Pretty soon
he lost both stirrups, and once as he was a hanging over to one
side, one of them stirrups came up and hit him between the eyes.
That finished him; he hit the ground like a ton of lead.

The cowboy up on top of the corral had laughed and enjoyed the
performance all the way thru; and when the breed dug his nose in
the dust of the corral he laughed all the more. He'd never been
more agreeable to seeing a man get "busted" in his life.

The breed layed in a heap, never moving; and then the cowboy,
finally getting serious, was for getting him out of there before
the horse spotted him, and reduced him into thin air. Somehow, he
wasn't caring to see a human get tore apart and right before his
eyes that way even if that human did deserve killing; but Smoky's
interest was all for shedding the saddle right then and all that
carried the breed's smell; finally _it_ begin to slip; higher and
higher on his wethers it went till the high point was reached,
and then it started going down. When it reached the ground the
hackamore had come off with it, and before Smoky, slick and
clean, straightened up again, the breed had picked himself up,
and without the help of the cowboy, sneaked out of the corral.

The next few minutes was used by that cowboy in telling the breed
to get another horse saddled and hit the trail while the hitting
was good, and helping him getting his horses together, boosted
him out of camp.--But the breed wasn't thru with Smoky, he was
going to "tend to him" again some other time.

Months had went by before that other time come, and it'd been
away late in the next fall before that hombre ever put his hands
on Smoky again. In that time the other ponies, which all had
seemed inclined to behave, had been sold. Smoky had been kept in
the corral, treated with a club regular, and fed "post hay,"
till, as the breed figgered, he'd break that pony's spirit, or
break his neck; but he was going to _make_ him behave some way,
so as he'd get the price he'd be asking for him.

Then one night a high March wind had sprung up, rattled the
corral gate, and finally worked it open. Smoky hadn't been long
in seeing the opening, and when a few days later the breed,
hunting for the horse, spotted him, the mouse colored gelding had
took up with the wild bunch, and only a glimpse of him did he
get.

Every once in a while that whole summer the breed had tried
cutting Smoky out of the wild bunch and run him in, but that pony
had been harder to get near than any of the wild ones he was
with. He knowed what was on the program for him if that breed
ever caught him again. The steady beatings he'd got from him had
made his hate grow for the human till a striking rattlesnake
looked like a friend in comparing.

But the breed hadn't been for quitting,--he couldn't stand to
have anything get the best of him, not even an ornery pony; and
as Smoky enjoyed his wild freedom them summer months, the breed
had kept a studying which circle Smoky and the wild ones would
take whenever they was being chased, and getting a good lay of
the land he finally figgered a plan.

And, that's how come, when he started out after Smoky again in
the fall he knowed just where to place a relay string of ponies.
At the other end was a trap corral and well hid. Then the breed
spotted the horse late one afternoon, and fell in behind him and
the other wild ones he was with. It had been a long chase; the
wild ones had dropped out of the run one by one and branched to
one side, but Smoky and the rest of the strongest had kept on
right along on the trail where the breed had stationed his fresh
relay horses. Finally, and as the breed kept a coming in on 'em
with fresh horses, the strongest of the mustangs kept a branching
out; but Smoky had kept on straight ahead, till, leg weary and
staggering, he'd found himself in the wings of the trap corral,
and then inside, past being able to see the grinning halfbreed
who'd closed the gate on him.

A few days went by when Smoky seemed in a trance. He remembered
some of being led and jerked all the way back to the breed's
hangout, of being saddled the next day and jerked around some
more, and then rode out, and with spur and quirt, made to trot
around. He didn't realize the breed had set on him or he didn't
seem to care. The little hay that was throwed out to him wasn't
noticed, and hardly did he drink,--only if by chance he happened
to mope around the corral and find himself standing in the stream
that was running in one side of it.

There was everything about the horse to indicate that in a few
more days he'd be laying down, never to get up no more; his trail
seemed fast coming to an end, and the heart that was left in him
had shrunk till nary a beat of it could be felt. The breed kept a
riding him out, thinking he at last and for sure had the horse
right where he wanted him.

"I'll make a good horse out of you, you scrub," he'd say as he'd
beat him over the head with his quirt and at the same time cut
him with the spur. Smoky had seemed to feel neither the quirt nor
the spur. He didn't flinch nor even bat an eye as both would come
down on him and leave the marks. There seemed to be no sign of
hopes or life left in the horse, and the abuse went on till,
finally and one day, the breed happened to cut the horse a little
deeper and in a more sensitive place.

That cut had stirred the pony's shrunk up heart, and a faint
spark had showed in his eyes for a second. The next day Smoky
even snorted a little as the breed walked into the corral, and he
tried to buck some as he climbed into the saddle. The breed was
surprised at the new show of spirit, and remarked as he took down
his quirt:

"I'll take _that_ out of you."

From that day on Smoky's heart begin to expand towards natural
size once more. But it wasn't the same kind of heart that had
once been his,--that first one had died, and this one had took
root from abuse, growed from rough treatment to full size, and
with hankerings in it only for finding and destroying all that
wasn't to his liking. And there was nothing to his liking no
more.

The breed he hated more than anything in the world, but Smoky,
with that new heart of his, wasn't for showing them feelings
much. He'd got wise in ways of how and when to do his fighting,
and where it'd do most good;--he'd wait for a chance. In the
meantime he'd got to eating every stem of what little hay the
breed would hand him; he'd have to live to carry out them new
ambitions of his.

But somehow, a hint of Smoky's new ambitions must of leaked out;
anyway the breed had a hunch that it wouldn't be well for him to
come too close to that pony's teeth and hoofs. He'd often watch
him thru the corral poles and wonder. He'd sometimes wonder if it
wouldn't be best to just place a forty-five slug between that
pony's ears instead of fooling with him, but the hopes of still
being able to sell the horse for a good price would always keep
him from drawing his gun.

"A good long ride'll fix you," says the breed one morning as he
drug his saddle near the corral chute.

"And I've got a hell of a long one ahead for you to-day."

Smoky was prodded into the chute with a long pole, and saddled
where he couldn't move. Then the breed climbed in the saddle,
opened the chute gate and started the horse out on a long run.

Ten miles of country was covered which Smoky didn't see; his
instinct made him dodge badger holes and jump washouts, and his
eyes and ears was steady back and on the human he was packing, if
he could only reach with his teeth and get him down.

The breed's spurs kept a gouging him, and along with the quirt a
pounding, Smoky was kept into a high lope. With that kind of
tattoo being played on him the pony gradually begin to warm up
and getting peeved. It wouldn't be long, if that gait was kept
up, when he'd be reaching the boiling point, and then get
desperate.

A steep bank was reached by the edge of a creek, and there Smoky
sorta hesitated a second. His ears and eyes was pointed ahead for
that second and looking for a place where the going down wouldn't
be so sudden; when the breed, always looking for some reason to
deal the horse misery, put the steel and layed the quirt to him
at once. That took Smoky by surprise, and the flame that'd been
smoldering in his heart loomed up into a active volcano all at
once.

Down over the bank he went, and when he landed he had his head
between his front legs and went to bucking from there. By some
miracle the breed stuck him for half a dozen jumps, then he made
a circle in the air and landed on all fours at the foot of the
bank.

A shadow on the ground and right by him made the breed reach for
his gun near as quick as he landed; it was the shadow of the
horse and too close; his gun was out of the holster and he turned
to use it; but he was just the splinter of a second too late, and
the six-shooter was buried in the ground as Smoky, like a big
cougar, pounced on him.



CHAPTER XII

"WHEN THE GOOD LEAVES"


Big posters was tacked on the telegraph poles all around the
little town of Gramah. Them posters could be seen in many windows
of the town's stores, and advertised the coming rodeo and
cowboys' reunion. Amongst the prizes that was wrote down on the
poster was prints from photographs of bucking horses and steers,
and taking most of the room in the centre of it was the picture
of a bucking horse which outdone all the others. It showed that
horse throwing his riders in a way few riders ever get throwed.
Then in big letters underneath was the words: THE COUGAR
CHALLENGES THE WORLD'S BEST.

The Cougar was the name of a bucking horse, the main attraction,
and challenger to all the good riders of the country. No line was
drawed as to where them riders came from or how far, and the
purse that was offered for the one who could ride that horse and
scratch him was enough to make any good rider want to come a long
way and try.

Many had come and tried him at other rodeos and where The Cougar
had performed, and found that that pony was no ordinary bucking
horse; and as all that tried him could tell, afterwards, there
was more than his bucking to contend with. He was mean, there was
murder in his eye, and if it wasn't for the "pick-up" men who
hazed him, many a cowboy would of been pawed to pieces even
before he could of hit the ground.

That pony seemed to have a grudge against humans in general; his
ambition was for exterminating 'em all off the face of the earth.
But there was one thing which the riders noticed in him as most
queer, and that was in the way he seemed to hate some humans
worse than others,--his hate was plainest for the face that
showed dark.

A story followed the horse, and which kept a being repeated as rider met
rider at different rodeos and frontier day celebrations. It was that the
horse had been found on the desert, amongst a bunch of wild horses and
packing an empty saddle. There'd been dried blood sticking to the hair
along his jaw, and some more on his knees; the horse had been roped and
tied down and the riders had looked for signs of wounds or cuts on his
hide but nary a scratch had been found.

The horse was then advertised in the county and State papers and
described as "A mouse colored, blaze faced, stocking legged
gelding, and packing a brand that looked like a blotched wagon
wheel."

The advertisement was kept running for two weeks and nobody
showed to claim the horse. He was kept in the pasture for a few
days more, and then one day one of the riders run him in the
corral.

The cowboy had liked the looks of the pony from the day he'd set
eyes on him; he'd figgered him as an ordinary horse that'd been
spoiled a little, and shaking out a loop, there'd been no doubt
in his mind but what that could be took out of him easy enough.
But he hadn't got very far when he found that the pony would have
to be throwed before a saddle could ever be put on his back.
There was a look in the horse's eye which he didn't like, and
that cowboy having handled all kinds of horses knowed mighty well
what that look meant.

He kept his distance, and from there worked his ropes till the
horse went down to his knees and then flat to the ground. The
saddle was cinched on tight, and seeing that the hackamore was on
the pony's head to stay, the cowboy took his seat while the horse
was down, and reaching over took the foot ropes off.

What went on in the next few minutes was past ever being
described with talk, and as that cowboy felt, telling about it
would be a disgrace as compared with what really happened--
something like trying to paint the Grand Canyon of Arizona on
black canvas with black paint.

Anyway, that cowboy had reached for the top pole of the corral
and got on the other side of it before the pony had really got
started to whatever he was up to; and there on the safe side he
done a mental round-up, and it all came to him. He remembered the
empty saddle that was on the pony's back when found that day two
weeks past--then the dried blood that'd been on his jaw and more
of it on his knees.

The cowboy had remarked as thru the corral poles he'd watched the
man killer:

"A twelve hundred pound mountain lion is what that horse is."

That's where his name Cougar had come in, and no horse never
lived up to a name like the mouse colored gelding did to his.

Then had come rumors of a Fourth of July celebration which was
going to be pulled off in some big town to the south; there was
to be bronc riding and everything that went with it. A prize of a
hundred dollars had been offered for the best bucking horse, and
that's how come one day that The Cougar made his first appearance
before a grandstand. A warning was given to the "pick-up" man and
"hazers" to be on hand and watch out nobody got hurt, and them
few words of warning that way had proved to sound mighty right
before that day was over.

The Cougar had been _tried_ out, and then a hundred dollars was
handed to the rider who'd brought him in. He'd won the prize.
There was no doubt in anybody's mind but what that pony was by a
long ways the meanest and hardest horse to ride there, and not
only there, but anywhere else and wherever hard bucking horses
was rode. Fifty dollars additional was offered for the right to
keep the horse for rodeo purposes. That was refused, and when the
last day of the doings come, and the riders came up for the
"finals," another fifty was added to the first offer, and
accepted. A bill of sale was made out, and The Cougar from that
day on was drove from stockyard to stock car and from arena to
arena.

In front of the crowded grandstand is where his fame as a
fighting, man-hating, bucking outlaw begin to 'spread, and from
State to State, town and range folks alike was on hand and
whenever he was to be rode and handled; for watching that horse
perform was alone worth more than the price that was asked for
the ticket at the gate of the rodeo grounds.

It wasn't long when the folks thru the whole of the southwestern
states begin to talk of The Cougar as they did of their favorite
movie actor, actress, or the Prince of Wales. Tourists from
Europe and from all parts of the U. S. came and went, and carried
stories with 'em about the wonders of the wickedness of that
horse. Then rodeo committees begin to perk up their ears, and at
the same time started bidding for him. The Cougar's presence got
to be valuable, and came a time when five hundred dollars was
offered by a rival who also made a business of furnishing rodeos
with strings of bucking stock. The offer wasn't considered, none
at all, and the riders around had their doubts if even a thousand
would change the ownership of that horse.

Every summer thru, the mouse colored outlaw was shipped along
with the others more or less of his kind and unloaded at some
different rodeo grounds; every few weeks and for three or four
days he was _rode at_. Twice or three times a day during the
doings, some strange rider would climb him, the chute gate would
fly open, and out would come a tearing, bellering hunk of steel
coils to land out a ways, and like a ton of lava from up above,
jar the earth even up to the grandstand.

The judges, pick-up men, and others around would find themselves
short about ten pairs of eyes as all tried to catch every crooked
move that pony put into his work. All breaths seemed to be held
up during that time; but never no time was them breaths held up
for very long, cause, very soon, there'd be a scattering of a
tall cowboy who, from the chute, had started on top, took a lot
of wicked jars while setting there and so high; and good rider as
he'd have to be, soon come to conclude that it sure was no
disgrace to be separated from his saddle and flung out a ways--
not on that horse.

Very seldom would the rider have to walk back very far, and
sometimes only a few feet was between the rider who was picking
himself up and the chute where he'd rode out from so fast and
furious.

As an all around outlaw and bucking horse The Cougar had no
rival; there wasn't a horse in the State or any State neighboring
that could compete with him in either fighting or bucking, and
folks seeing or studying the horse often wondered; for anybody
who knowed horses could see that that horse hadn't been born a
natural outlaw like most of the rodeo's bucking horses generally
are. That pony had brains, a big supply of 'em and which showed
in the way he'd go about throwing his man. He wasn't like the
average bucking horse, who'd often buck back under the man that
was already loosened; and instead, when The Cougar felt a man
lose an inch, that inch was never got back. The saddle kept a
getting away from him from then on.

But there was more and which was all proof as to the amount of
brains that pony carried. There was his hate for the man, and
which showed the same as the hate one human would have for
another, only it was more dangerous. And then again, and as the
cowboy who took care of him often remarked:--

"The way that horse packs a grudge, somebody sure must of dealt
him a dirty deal some time or other. I know there's sure
something on his mind besides that too, and like he's pining for
something that's gone and hopeless; at them times he acts like he
wants my company the same as tho he was craving for somebody; but
them spells don't last long, and soon he seems to come back to
earth and realizing things. Then's when I'm not within reaching
distance no more--but by golly, I sure wish sometimes that horse
would like me as well as he hates."

The first two years he put in as The Cougar and bad horse was the
most ferocious two years any horse went thru. It was wicked
times, not only for the horse, but for all who handled and tried
to ride him. There was so much poison in that pony's heart that
the only way he could live was by hating and being hated; he fed
on it, and the bars or poles that was between him and whoever he
wanted to get at in his fits of wickedness showed signs a plenty
of his hankering to murder,--the destroying ability of that
pony's teeth and hoofs sure was visible, and convincing.

He wasn't at all the same horse that'd faced a cowboy some eight
years or so past. He hadn't wanted to fight then, he'd just
wanted to get away and be left alone, and he'd only fought the
rope that held him; and even tho his suspicions and hate of the
human had been natural he hadn't seen anything about that cowboy
he wanted to disfigure.

He'd done a mighty neat job of bucking in the Rocking R corrals
and made Clint pay attention to his riding pretty well; but his
bucking then, even tho it was hard, didn't compare much with the
bucking of The Cougar. He'd just been bucking thru instinct. It
was the natural thing for a brainy horse to do, and when he
bucked it wasn't for meanness but just to see if he couldn't get
out from under that rig and man. He'd felt like it didn't belong
up there in the middle of him, and he'd only wanted to make sure
that it all could stick.

He'd given it all a mighty good test of course, but as compared
with the way Smoky had acted with how he was now acting as The
Cougar, it would match well with a man playing a peaceful game of
solitary and a gambler dealing for his life with some hated
enemy.

The Cougar would of killed himself to get his man; he was past
caring for his own hide and only lived to hate. But even as
strong as that hate was, it was queer to see that he wasn't
interested to do damage only to the men that handled or tried to
ride him. Maybe that was because there was always so many
around,--the grandstands was full of people and it was the same
around the chutes and corrals of the rodeo grounds. Them crowds
might of confused him to a standstill and sort of made him keep
neutral till only one or two come near.

Another thing that might of fooled a few was the way The Cougar
carried his ears. Most every town person has noticed how some
horses in the city's streets have some kind of leather muzzles to
keep 'em from biting passing folks. Them horses have their ears
back most of the time and whenever somebody comes near, they have
a mighty cranky look too; but as a rule they're not as wicked as
they look. It's just that they're tired of having everybody that
goes by stop and try to feed 'em peanuts or apples and such, or
being petted and sometimes rubbed the wrong way. Some horses'
disposition can't stand it, and them few seem to get so that they
can't keep their ears forward and look pleasant any time;--
they're always laying 'em back and looking like they would do
some damage; but the most they would do if they had no muzzle
would be to maybe just nip a little hunk of hard-twist serge or a
little silk off different folks' arms.

Like a feller says to me one time, "It's just that they're
bored."

The horse out on the range, no matter how mean he might be,
hardly ever puts his ears back at a human; when he does, it's
only once in a coon's age and only for the split of a second. In
the next split of that second _something has happened_.

The Cougar, being a sure enough range horse and with real
mustang* blood to boot, carried his ears in the ways of that
kind. He'd look at a man thru the chute timbers and with his ears
_straight ahead_, but in them eyes under the shadow of them ears
was a fair picture of what would happen if that man ever stepped
in that chute with him. It didn't need no imagination to see it
either.

-----
* Of the early Spanish.
-----

Never did The Cougar lay his ears back unless he was sure of his
victim. When he did there'd be an ambulance wagon racing thru the
arena and remarks in queer low tones passed by white faced folks
up in the grandstand; which all kept accumulating and piled up in
The Cougar's reputation as a bad horse.


A little bit of a freckle faced hombre who'd made the "grand
finals" was along the chute one day and "up" to ride The Cougar.
He'd come from acrost the border, and thru the first three days
of the rodeo had proved himself to be a "ranahan"* in bronc
riding as well as in steer roping.

-----
* Top hand.
-----

"By golly," he was heard to say as The Cougar was hazed into the
saddling chute, "I've come a long ways to get a setting at that
pony." He felt of his taped spurs to make sure they was there to
stay, "and if you watch close," he went on, grinning, "I'll give
you all a few lessons on how to play a tune with a spur rowel at
the tip of a pony's ears."

The little "vaquero"* was feeling good; he hadn't been to town
for a year or more, and a chance to ride a mean horse where there
was folks around was a big change to him. Barrel cactus and
Spanish dagger had been the only witnesses to his riding ability,
and riding a side-winding pony on dobie flats or high mesas
wasn't so apt to bring out the best in a rider as when in a nice
arena, where there's a band playing and folks a cheering.

-----
* Cowboy.
-----

"There's a horse to my liking," he says as he took a look at The
Cougar. The way that pony was acting while being saddled didn't
faze the rider none at all, the grin on his face kept a spreading
all the wider as he made ready to climb the chute; he'd handled
many a fighting horse, and to him they all could do only one
thing, and that was their worst.

As a true rider of the range he welcomed anything that'd test his
skill and ability, and if The Cougar had come straight up from
hell, wore horns, a forked tail, and cloven hoof, he'd of grinned
all the more and bet his year's earnings that he could send him
back to where he came with his tail between his legs and
hollering "enough."

"Rider up," hollered the hazer, but the judges was already
watching, for it was The Cougar "coming out."

The cowboy let out a war whoop and grinned as the chute gate flew
open and The Cougar came "uncorked." He packed that grin past the
judges and at the same time "reefed" (spurred) the earth-jarring
outlaw with _taped_ rowels from back of the ear to the back of
the saddle skirts.

"Yee-e-e-ep!" he howled, as the bellering Cougar left the earth
once more. A cloud of dust went up which kept the judges from
seeing what went on, but even if there'd been no dust they
couldn't of followed what all had happened, it had happened too
fast. In the next particle of time a twisting hunk of mouse
colored horse flesh was tearing up the arena towards the chutes
and the fence along it. The cowboy was still war whooping and
fanning but he was to one side and being snapped around like a
whip lash. The Cougar had found his stride and, as usual, was
getting his man.

The "pick up men" rode up to grab holt of the horse's head and
before the man was throwed; but they was just too late and in
another second something happened that made everybody in the
grandstand turn pale and hang on to each other. For the cowboy,
still a fanning, was, by a wicked jolt, loosened from his saddle
and headed for the ground. The Cougar reared up while the rider
was still in the air, then turned, and with ears back, teeth a
flashing, hoofs a striking with lightning speed, went to carry
out his heart's cravings.

The man was juggled up there for a second and then came down,
the horse, like the cougar he was, right after him and to finish
what he'd started.

It was then that Providence or something seemed to interfere; for
as the rider came down and reached the earth he was on the other
side of the fence, which kept him from being totally reduced to
dust. But even with the fence separating, The Cougar wasn't thru.
There was a noise of splintering timbers as he tried to reach the
cowboy, and it wasn't till two ropes settled around his neck and
pulled him away that it was what you'd call ended.

A few riders rushed up to find the cowboy setting up and shaking
his head like a trying to get back amongst the living. Pretty
soon he looked up at the men around him and a sort of vacant grin
spread over his features; then he looked at his clothes, noticed
his shirt was most tore off of him. He wrinkled his face as he
moved his body and felt kinks along his ribs and back, and looked
at his hand-made rawhide chaps which showed marks where hard
hoofs had connected. The sight of them made him grin again, and
after a while he says:

"Daggone good thing I had these chaps on or I'd be setting here
and going Adam one better."

From that day on the freckle faced cowboy was, or tried to be,
at every rodeo and near whatever chute The Cougar honored by his
presence. He'd run up against a horse he couldn't ride; it was
hard to take and he couldn't get it into his head how it was
done. He'd never seen a horse he couldn't ride before, but there
was more and which all kept the cowboy to following the outlaw.
The unnatural meanness of that pony had him guessing, and he sort
of wanted to figger it out while a setting on top. _There_ was a
horse that not only called for skill and nerve, but the thinking
ability of the pony was sure worth a trying to match.

Winters and springs and falls found him on the range and doing
his work there, he was getting all kinds of good practice with
his every day work, and when summers come he was always on the
trail of The Cougar and with new hopes that he could go back to
the range and tell his "majordomo" that he "rode him, slick and
clean and to a standstill."

For two summers he followed him, in that time, competing with
other good riders; he'd had three chances at him and each time
them chances wound up with him hitting the ground, and running as
he hit.

"That horse sure means what he does," he was heard to say to one
of the riders one time, "and by golly that's just what makes me
keep after him."

Three more long summers of rodeo work went by, and The Cougar
kept on a challenging the world's best riders. Another spring
came, more rodeos was followed and where it was advertised that
"The Cougar Will be Present." The posters went on a telling how
in five years' time no rider had been able to set the horse till
the gun was fired, and as the cowboys remarked, "That was one
truthful statement."

Smoky kept on a throwing men right and left that spring and on
thru the summer. He kept his record and back clean that way till
away along towards the fall, and then one day at the start of
another rodeo, a cowboy from the Wyoming country, and who'd come
south for the winter, happened to hear of the doings. A couple of
days later that bronc fighter showed himself at the rodeo
headquarters, and remarking how he'd heard of The Cougar, signed
his name and entered on bronc riding.

He qualified and went thru the "tryouts" and "semifinals" like it
all was so much play. The Cougar was a horse kept for the finals
only, and that's the pony the cowboy had been trying to reach;
the others he'd had to ride had only been a means for him to get
to The Cougar.

He'd easy won the right to ride that horse, and also the chance
to win the thousand dollars that was up for any rider that could.
He hung around the chute and mighty close the next afternoon.
Soon the time would come for him to really try his ability; and
while waiting he was using that time to seeing that the latigoes
and cinch had no weak spots, and would be able to stand the
strain of staying around the middle of that Cougar horse.

Then the judges hollered out his name as the next rider out, and
about that time the mouse colored outlaw peeked thru the bars of
the chute at him and snorted. The rider whistled at the sight of
the mean looking head, and, grinning a little, remarked:

"I got a hunch that this pony is going to be tetotally different
than any horse I ever rode, but here goes, and I got to wish
myself luck."

"You'll need lots of that," says one of the cowboys.

The saddle was on, the cinch reached for and drawed up to stay,
and then the rider climbed over the poles of the chute and took
his seat on a back that'd throwed the country's best riders. He
pulled the rope rein up just tight enough, worked his feet ahead
a little, and setting back some to sort of meet the first jolt.
He took off his hat, layed all the balance he could in it, and
then hollered:

"We're coming out."

"Coming out" was right, but "shot out" would of been more fitting
in that case; anyway, the judges hardly seen either the horse or
the man till both was _out there_, and both a fighting to win.
--There was a mighty big surprise showing on all the faces around
when as the first big cloud of dust cleared, it was noticed the
rider was still _up there_, and what's more, all indicated that
he was going to stay there.

The judges was a setting on their horses, and, pop-eyed with the
miracle of the performance, looked on petrified. Such a rider on
such a horse was seldom seen, and they was so all took up with
the goings on, they didn't notice that the rider had rode past
the limit, and forgot to fire the gun marking the end of the
ride. Then somebody hollered and jarred 'em out of the trance
they was in.

The shot was fired, and the report had no more than died down
when the rider seemed to quit from there and fell off the
horse,--the punishment he'd took in that ride had been enough to
do him for many a day to come. He'd felt like his backbone was
going to be pushed thru his throat from the first jump, and that
feeling had kept a repeating right along with each fast coming
jolt till he was near unconscious. Being the rider he was, he
stuck there and tried to fight away the dizzy feeling and keep
track of the horse at the same time; then after what seemed an
hour, he heard a faint echo of the shot, and realized in a way
that he'd qualified for first money. He'd been the _first_ man to
ride that horse past the judges, and that was enough,--he wasn't
caring right then if it would be said that he didn't ride the
horse to the finish.

One of the riders who knowed The Cougar mighty well had watched
the horse "come out" with the same thrill that'd always been his
at that time. He'd seen the pony come out many a time before, and
as that last performance came to an end, he leaned over to one of
the boys near him, and says:

"Do you know, it strikes me like The Cougar is beginning to fade
out as a bucking horse. I don't think that pony's been keeping up
his standard the last few times he's been rode, and specially
this last time.--If that cowboy who's just left him had straddled
him last summer, I'm sure and certain that he wouldn't of stuck
as long as he did."

"Well, I've been sort of noticing that too, and figgered the
horse had slowed down some," agrees the other rider, "but that's
got to be expected, considering that The Cougar's been in the
arenas for going on six years now. I don't see, myself, how them
legs of his has been able to stand the strain _that_ long."

Them remarks was true,--nothing was meant against the cowboy
who'd been the first to stick him past the judges; and as them
words was said they meant just that, with no hint that _they_
could of done the same; and what's more, other cowboys had
noticed the same what these two had spoke of. The Cougar was
beginning to slow down,--but that last would maybe give some idea
of what a bucking horse The Cougar really was, or _had been_.

That pony slowing down that way begin to be noticed more and more
every time he was rode. The little vaquero from acrost the border
went back satisfied that fall: he'd been the second man to _ride_
The Cougar, and when the last rodeo of the year had been pulled
off The Cougar had been rode twice more, _and to a finish_. The
folks in the grandstands was surprised, and come to the
conclusion that he wasn't so much of a bucking horse after all,
but they didn't realize. Anyway, the thousand dollar purse that'd
been offered for anyone who could ride him had dwindled down to
five hundred, and The Cougar was fast losing the reputation he'd
made as a man-hating bucking horse.

Even his hate for the human had seemed to die down. He'd throwed
a rider one day who'd landed right in front of him; the crowd had
held their breath, expecting to see that cowboy mangled to pieces
right before their eyes. All that would of happened, and mighty
quick a year or so before; but this time the outlaw didn't seem
to notice the man. He'd bucked on right over him and seeming like
careful how he placed his hoofs as he'd went so as to miss
him.--There was murmurs in the grandstand afterwards that The
Cougar was no outlaw at all, maybe just a pet and trained to
buck, and like his man killing reputation, which was most likely
only a sort of a draw card and advertising for the rodeo.

But whatever the folks in the grandstand thought, Smoky had reasons of
his own for gradually getting away from being The Cougar. It wasn't that
his legs was getting stove up or giving away on him so much as the way
things had come to him as year after year he met up with the strange
riders that'd come to try him; and even tho none of 'em seemed to want a
close acquaintance with him, there was nothing about them boys for the
hate he was packing to feed on.

Not once, since that day he'd bogged his head in front of the
first grandstand, had a club, nor even a twig, ever been layed on
him. For the first couple of years, Smoky had let the heart the
half breed had transplanted in him, control his actions. The
poison of hate in that heart had kept him from noticing or go
according to the good treatment he'd been getting; and it was
close on to the fifth year before his ears begin to perk up to
the show of admiration and respect that was handed him from all
around.

The name of The Cougar lived on for a spell, but the horse that
had been packing that name was fast getting away from having the
right to such.--Then the next spring came and with it rodeos
begin to be pulled off here and there. Good riders begin
following The Cougar again as before, and with the hopes that
some day, sometime or other, they'd be able to pull their riggins
off that pony's back and be able to say:

"I rode him."

But long before middle summer come, them hopes had died down in
many of the boys, for The Cougar wasn't The Cougar no more. Them
fast, crooked, and hard hitting jumps of his, and which had
jarred the thoughts and balance out of so many a good rider, had
died down, and put the horse as an average with the other bucking
horses. Rider after rider forked him, and sorta disappointed, had
rode and fanned him easy enough; where a year or so before no
fanning had been required to qualify.

The Cougar kept a bucking on and on every time he was saddled,
and he was rode thru to the finish oftener and oftener till
finally, no rider was ever throwed no more, not from that pony's
back.

The heart of The Cougar was shriveling up and leaving space for
the heart that was Smoky's, and that heart, even tho older and
weaker, was making a mighty strong stand, and steady coming back.

Soon, there came a time when the mouse colored outlaw didn't have
to be handled from a distance no more; no high corral was needed
for protection against his teeth and hoofs, and like most of the
other buckers he could be led from the stock car to the rodeo
grounds without any other ropes holding him back, and away from
the man that was leading him.

Then one day, a rider brought in a big raw-boned grey, remarking
that "_here_ was an outlaw," and an outlaw he was sure enough.
From his Roman nose on up to his sunk, dead looking eyes, and
taking in his lantern jaws on to his thick neck and along with
the rest of him, all indicated the natural outlaw; but what made
him as a most valuable horse for the rodeos, was in the how he
could buck; that's all he knowed, and like all natural outlaws
that way, that's all he wanted to know.

Right away, he was called "The Grey Cougar," the same as to try
and bring back the real Cougar. But there was no comparing the
grey outlaw with The Cougar, not when that last one had meant
business. To begin with, the grey horse was mean only because it
was his natural instinct to be that way; he didn't have the
special ambition nor the brains that The Cougar had. With the
grey it was just jug headed orneriness, and in no way could he
compete with the mouse colored man killer; but he made a fine
outlaw just the same, a second best that'd do.

He managed to buck a few men off from the start, and right then
is when the Old Cougar begin sliding into the background, for
it'd been quite a spell since that pony had made a man ride for
his money.--The appearance of the grey outlaw had kinda marked
the downhill start for Smoky's career as a bucking horse, and
then one day the end came sure enough, and in a few minutes.

As usual, The Cougar was announced to the crowd, and them in the
grandstand who'd often heard but never seen that wicked pony in
action was naturally mighty interested as that notorious horse
made his appearance in the saddling chute. Many in the crowd had
seen him buck before, and some of them stopped breathing for a
spell; and while the gate was opened, most anything was expected
from that horse; and all of them that looked on felt sure of
seeing something that'd come up to their expectations, and then
some.

The gate was opened, and out came a streak of a mouse colored
horse with a cowboy on top, and The Cougar, that famous outlaw,
lined out acrost the ground _on a long lope_.

Anywheres, and in any line, very little respect is ever showed
for a "has been." If The Cougar had fought and tore things up as
he'd once had, all would of been hunkydory, and the crowd would
all been satisfied; but the horse had come to the end of his
fighting streak. Not a jump was left in him, for the Smoky heart
had growed over and smothered the heart that'd been The Cougar's.
He was a "has been" and only willing to be the plain behaving
Smoky again.

The crowd was disappointed, they felt they wasn't getting their
money's worth, and there was hollers of "Take him away and hook
him up on a milk wagon," or "Sell him for a lady's saddle horse,"
and so on. It was queer, but only natural, to notice that them
loud mouth remarks was passed only by the most useless, and of
the kind that's plum helpless whenever away from their home
grounds. Others hollored more to kind of show off, but the looks
they'd get from the sensible folks around only went to prove that
the show off was of just plain _ignorance_.

The cowboy rode The Cougar till the other side of the grounds was
reached. There he stopped him and climbed off, and hearing the
hurrahs from time grandstand, he touched the horse on the neck
and says:

"Never mind, old horse, you've done yours--and I'd liked mighty
well if I could of turned you loose amongst that bunch that's
making all that noise up there, and watch 'em scatter,--but
you're not fighting any more."

The rodeo was on its last day, the prizes was handed out that
night, and the next morning the bucking horses was loaded in the
stock cars on the way for some other town where another rodeo was
going to be pulled off. In them box cars there was one place
where The Cougar had stood while on the road, but this time, and
in that same place, was a grey horse who snorted as the train
begin to move. The Cougar had been left behind, and from the
inside of the stock yards watched the train pull out of sight.



CHAPTER XIII

"A MANY-MEN HORSE"


The Cougar being he was useless for rodeo purposes, had been sold
to the livery stable man for twenty-five dollars.

It was figgered that at least twenty-five dollars worth of use
would be got out of him there. The horse was fat and strong
looking, could be broke to harness, and made to do his share with
any of the six and eight horse teams which was kept on the road
acrost the deserts as freight teams.

But one day, and before the harness ever disgraced The Cougar's
hide, a bunch of tourists had flocked into town to stay for a
spell, and one of the crowd suggested a little horseback riding.
The livery stable man was at once swamped with orders for saddle
horses, and before he got thru tallying up how many he could
furnish, he found he was short of about three. By scouting
around, he dug up two more, but he was still short one, and then
his eye fell on the mouse colored horse.

At first, he was for overlooking that horse entirely, but as he
needed one more to finish up the party, he couldn't very well
afford to overlook any horse that might do. He caught the horse
and saddled him, and scared but game, he got in the saddle. If
that pony still had one jump left in him, it was up to that old
boy to find out; and one jump from that horse would be that much
too many. He'd never do for no tourist then.

But The Cougar never even humped up as he was rode around the
stable corrals. The man's legs begin to quit shaking, and as he
sat there, his face gradually turned from blank white to natural
color again; and then he begin to grin and show pleasant surprise
as he noticed how well the horse reined whichever way was wanted.

"By japers," he remarked to the stable door, "this feller is a
real saddle horse."

So, when the tourists, all togged up in their shiny riding
habits, appeared some time later, the stable man was all ready
and waiting for 'em. He sized 'em all up as to which would get
along with each horse best, and being he was still dubious as to
what The Cougar might do, he looked 'em all over careful once
more till the strongest and most able looking young man in the
bunch was spotted.

The Cougar's reins was handed to him, and sort of cautious, he
asked:

"I suppose you know how to ride well?"

That young man turned on him, surprised at such a question, and
answered sarcastic:

"Why certainly."

The stable man grinned as he watched him and all ride up the
street. "Why certainly," he says to himself, and grinned some
more. "I hope he's just as certain on his riding when he gets
back."

It was evening before the party, slouching all over their horses,
returned to the stable. The stable man smiled, satisfied, as he
noticed that the young feller, not at all mussed up, was still
riding The Cougar. He'd been worried about letting that young
feller have the horse, but everything was o. k. now and the folks
seemed to've all enjoyed their ride considerable, and so well
that they wanted the horses again for the next day.

"This is a very fine horse," says the young feller as he got off
The Cougar. There was all about him that as much as went on to
say, "Why certainly I can ride." The stable man had seen many
like him, and knowed exactly how well he could ride; but he was
relieved in learning that The Cougar had behaved so well.

"And what's the horse's name?" asks the young feller.

For a minute the stable man done some tall thinking; if the
horse's real name was given out, the young feller would sure
swell up and bust in learning that he'd rode the famous outlaw
nobody else had been able to ride for so long; and even tho the
horse hadn't made a single jump with him, his "_certainly_" would
get more conceited than ever. And then again, he maybe wouldn't
want the horse any more. So after hesitating a while he finally
came onto a new name for the horse.

"Cloudy, is that horse's name," he says.

That name sounded sort of pleasing all around, and it fitted the
color of the pony mighty well, but then the good points for it
would never loom up like the name of Smoky had in the cow country
to the north, nor would it ever be mentioned about from state to
state and give thrills just at the sound like the name of The
Cougar had often done. But then again that horse wasn't the same
no more,--he'd went from top cowhorse, to champion bucking horse
and all around outlaw, only to fade away in a livery stable, and
there for every Tom, Dick, and Harry to ride as they pleased.
Cloudy was just a livery plug.

As a raw bronc and then cowhorse, Smoky had been for learning
all that could be learned. As The Cougar and outlaw, he'd been
for killing and disfigguring every man that gave him the chance.
There'd been something that called on him to do his best while on
the Rocking R range, and there he went to the top as a cowhorse.
Something else, and very different, had stirred his interest
while in the arena of the rodeo grounds; he'd shined there as a
fighting outlaw, and in a way that'd made all the others seem to
be out of sight.

He'd had something big to work for, both on the range and in the arena;
but now it seemed like as the big livery stable doors closed on him
after his first day of use there, that the end of his string had come.
He'd sort of felt it in a way, soon as the last car of the bucking
horses he'd been with went and disappeared over the skyline. He hadn't
tried to get away, or even snorted when the stable man came in the
corral where he'd been left, and led him out.

He'd followed the man to the big stable, and as he was kept
there, he found nothing about the place nor the folks around that
suggested anything worth while working for. He was just a horse
_there_, a plug that could be rented by the hour or day, and even
tho all seemed strange and new compared to what he'd been used
to, there was nothing in the goings on which could put a spark in
his eye.

Maybe it was that his heart was growing old, but anyway, and
after getting acquainted some with the place, the pony sort of
took things as they come without snorting out his opinions. He
was fast getting past caring,--his main interest in life soon
begin to be only for the manger of hay and the little grain that
was fed him when the day's work was done. One day the stable man
came and curried him, that was a new experience for the horse;
never had a curry comb ever touched his hide before. Somehow he
didn't mind it, and then come a time when the feel of that
performance was looked forward to; it felt near as good as a good
roll in the dirt. The currying, his feed of grain, a rest, and to
be left alone, had got to be the remains of the mouse colored
pony's ambitions.

But he had to work, and earn what hay and care was handed him. He
didn't mind working, but all this aimless chasing around he was
took out to do most every day wasn't at all to that pony's
liking. He'd been broke to doing something useful, and which
_had_ to be done. Afterwards, and with his bucking, there was a
reason; but with these _equestrians_, as they was called, they
didn't seem to know themselves what they wanted to do, or where
they wanted to go. They'd just wander around and handle him with
a rein in each hand like he was a plow horse. They'd run him up
and down streets where the ground was hard on his feet, and let
him walk where the going was soft and level. It was no wonder
that the end of the day, and the stall at the stable, was looked
forward to so much.

Never before had that horse appreciated his night's rests as he
was now doing. He'd near close his eyes for the peace he'd feel
then, and eat his hay and grain slow, the same as tho he was
fearing that as soon as it was gone, he'd have to be out again,
and going. There'd be a short spell thru the night when he'd
close his eyes all the way, and his tired mind, like his tired
body, would be at rest; and then after a while, when his eyes
would open again, he'd clean up what little hay he'd left the
night before, and that way, gather all the strength he could for
the day's work that was soon to begin.

Near every morning, early, a grey haired man, and sort of stout
around the middle, would come. A little "pancake" saddle with
flapping iron stirrups, would be put on the pony's back; and
after a lot of hard work and puffing, the equestrian would
finally get up and on the horse, and the early morning ride would
begin.

The man was heavy, and set his saddle mighty awkward, but with
all his weight and awkwardness, and as Cloudy got acquainted some
with the man, he finally sort of took a liking for him. That one
seemed to know where he wanted to go, and when he got there, even
tho it was no place in perticular, the old feller would always
get down off of him. Sometimes he'd talk to him, and Cloudy would
listen,--it didn't matter if he couldn't make heads or tails of
what the talk was about, he just liked the sound of his voice.

Them morning rides was always on the outside of town, up some
canyon or lane, and Cloudy felt better at them places. Besides,
he never was rushed; and if he was put into a trot or a lope, it
was done proper and in a way both man and horse enjoyed. Seldom
would any sweat ever show after the ride was over and the stable
was reached again.

But the day's work would be just beginning for Cloudy, and the
stable was no more than got into sight, when saddles would be
changed and another person, fresh, and aching for a _jaunt_,
would get on him and start out on another ride. When he'd be
brought back at noon, he'd just have time to eat his grain, when
another equestrian would darken the stable door, and ask for
Cloudy.

"I enjoy riding that horse so, don't you know."

Everybody preferred Cloudy to any horse the stable man had, and
being that feller wasn't running that business for his health, he
rented him out every chance he got, and fed him an extra feed of
grain so the horse could stand up under the work. Sometimes that
horse would be rode till away into the night, then brought in
dripping with sweat and often staggering. But the next day his
work went on just the same.

Folks of all ages, sizes, build, and packing from none to a big
amount of brains, came and rode Cloudy. Once in a while he'd be
handled right and like it was known that a horse has feelings and
brains; but most of the time his feelings wasn't at all
considered. No thought would be given that the horse might of
already went a long ways, or that he might be tired. But amongst
all that rode him, the boys was the worst, and fast running the
old pony downhill and towards the end.

The most of 'em would start the horse on a high lope, and from
the time they got on him till he was brought back, that high
lope, instead of being let up on, would most always wind up into
a high run. Up and down the side streets they'd race him, loan
him to other boys to race him some more, and each would do their
best to show off on how fast they could make the tired horse go.

There was times as the spur, a quirt was layed on the old horse,
to make him go faster; when The Cougar heart which had died in
him near showed signs of coming back to life again; but the
pony's spirit had dwindled down as the years accumulated, and he
couldn't back the way he felt. He was weary both in mind and
body, and no chance was ever given him so as to let either rest;
and if once in a while the heart of The Cougar did make a try at
coming back it wasn't for long. The flame would only sputter and
go out, and another rap with the quirt would only make him try to
do his best once again, as just plain Cloudy, the livery stable
plug.

The boys, girls, and grown ups kept a setting on the old horse;
and not knowing, but sure and steady, was riding and dragging him
down to a death that'd be away ahead of the time when it should
come. They'd compared well with a pack of wolves, for like that
kind, none of 'em would ever wanted to come within a hundred
yards of the horse when he was up and a fighting. None of 'em
would ever dreamed of wanting to set on his back when he was The
Cougar and hankering to fight and kill, but now and at last he
was down; there was no fight in him no more, and like the pack of
wolves they compared so well with, they all closed in on him.

The only difference was, the wolf pack killed their victim quick.
They don't leave the life drag on for days, weeks and months, nor
let the victim suffer to finally die slow and by degrees. Then
again, the wolf killed to eat and live.

But there was no blame ever attached to these human wolves who
was killing the horse only for the pleasure they'd get in riding
him, and the fine exercise that went with it. Most of 'em meant
well; only they didn't know. Cloudy, always true in whatever he
done, was so willing, no jab of the spur was needed to make him
go; and his willingness to do his best that way was often if not
always mistaken, and took for granted that he was feeling good
and rearing to go.

They didn't know the difference between a tired, wore out horse
and one that's fresh and fit to be rode. Then again, there was
many who never stopped to realize. To them a horse was just a
horse, and they didn't know nothing about horses. That kind
figgered a horse to be like an automobile, always able to go and
as fast as was wanted; and instead of stepping on the gas like is
done with a car, just give the horse the whip, and that way keep
him right on a going.

A winter came and scattered the bright fall days four ways. The
coming of the long, cold winter, along with the raw winds that
swept down from the divide, brought to the folks around a dread
of the dreary months that was to follow. Them folks wasn't for
enjoying being out much any more, and instead found a lot of
comfort in being where there was a roof over their heads, and a
fire roaring between the four walls.

The tourists had all left, and scattered back to where they came.
"The town was dead," and many heads was got together a trying to
figger ways to break the monotony that'd took hold of the
community. For two weeks a cold wind had blowed down off the
mountain and once in a while would bring along light flakes of
snow that kept a skipping and never seemed to light. The weather
was cussed at by some, while others kept busy bringing in wood
and coal, and not any had a good word put in for Old Man Winter,
not any excepting one, and that one was only an old livery stable
plug.

That old plug couldn't of said anything anyway, but he done
better, he _felt_ what he couldn't say. He felt that the coming
of winter that way and the evaporating of the tourists and the
others, as it came, was all that saved what little life he had
left. There was saddle sores on his back, and he'd got to where
there was nothing to him but a rack of bones on which a hide
hung. That hide was faded from many a sweating, and in spots the
hair had wore off and left it bare. His weary legs near buckled
under him, and was hardly able to pack the weight he'd reduced
to; and another couple of weeks more the old pony would of been
done for. He'd long ago been going on his nerve, and that had
been fast wearing out on him.

But now, it looked like Old Man Winter had come just in time and
saved him from the bone pile. There'd been two weeks when the
cold winds howled, whistled thru the cracks of the stable and
shook it; and in them two weeks, the old horse had recuperated
some till he was able to listen to the howling wind and feel the
while that no equestrian would be showing up to interrupt the
rest he was needing so bad.

Every person around wondered when that awful wind was going to
stop; but with Cloudy, and if he could of, he'd wished that wind
would last forever. It'd got to be sweet music to his ears, and
he dozed to his heart's content only to be woke up out of his
dream to stare at a fresh forkful of hay once in a while. Then
he'd eat a spell, listen to the wind some more, and on the sound
of it, go to dozing again. Maybe dreaming of a winter range,
somewheres, and far away. Pecos is by him maybe, while he dreams,
then other ponies of the Rocking R, and on a ridge watching him
is Clint--the only real friend he'd ever knowed.

The winter months wore on and Cloudy begin to look like a horse
again; then spring come, and the air that came with it got the
folks to wanting to be out. One day the gray haired gent who'd
rode Cloudy in mornings of the summer before showed up again and
was picked on as one steady customer for the pony; then a few
days later a young lady came to the stable who "just loved
horses," and asked if she could get Cloudy every afternoon and
whenever the weather was fit to ride in.

The stable man let her have the horse once and noticing what good
care she'd took of him, figgered her as another steady customer
for the old horse. With her and the grey haired man showing up
every day he allowed how that would be enough work for him, and
none of the other equestrians ever got a chance to set on that
horse from then on.

A few years before, and if Cloudy had been the kind of a horse
folks would want to ride, that pony would of been able to take on
a couple more equestrians and stand up under the work easy
enough; but now he was getting too old for much more riding, and
the stable man realizing that, was trying to make him last as
long as he could. But Cloudy was getting stiff mighty fast along
the shoulders and front legs, he couldn't reach out no more in
the same stride that'd been his; and instead, whenever a front
foot touched the ground for another step, it was like he was
placing it on needles, and careful so as not to jar his shoulders
and the rest of his body any more than he could help.

There was times when he felt like he wanted to split the breeze
the same as he used to, but that feeling was mostly in his heart,
and his old legs couldn't follow up. Them old legs had hit the
ground too hard, too many times, and jarred too many riders out
of the saddle at the rodeos where he'd performed as a bucking
horse. Then the first year of livery stable work where he was
jammed around on the town's hard and rocky streets put the kibosh
on him for fair. The old tendons had been called on to do too
much.

But neither the old gent nor the young lady that was riding him
every day noticed the stiffness crawling up on the old horse. He
still went, and he still seemed willing to go some more, and far
as they could tell he was as good as any four year old. Both took
care of him so well that no hint ever came to either of 'em that
they was riding an old horse what had along ago earned freedom
and a rest for what few years was still his to live.

Every afternoon the girl came, her pockets loaded down with lumps
of sugar, and refusing help, saddled Cloudy and headed him for a
trail from where the scenery around could be seen and well. She'd
pet him on the neck and run her fingers thru his mane, and talk
while the pony, given plenty of time, would pick his way thru the
rocks and brush. She'd let him rest often while in the steepest
climbs, and sometimes would get out of the saddle so as to give
him a better chance. At them times, she'd reach in the pocket of
her white riding habit and get a few lumps of the sugar she'd
brought for him.

Cloudy hadn't been much for sugar when it was first introduced to
him. He'd sniffed and snorted at the white lump, but the young
lady had kept it under his nose till he finally nibbled at it. It
didn't taste so bad, and he'd nibbled at it again, and some more,
till came a time as the girl kept a feeding it to him right along
he'd got to looking for it. He'd even stop sometimes, look back
at her while she was on him, and make it mighty plain that he
wanted another one of them white lumps; and when she was by him
on the ground he kept a trying to stick his nose in her pockets
and reaching for 'em. He knowed where she carried it.

What a surprise it would of been for the cowboys who knowed
Cloudy when he was The Cougar, the man killer, to've seen him in
the act of bumming a young lady for sugar that way; and what a
surprise it would of been for that same young lady to've learned
that not so very long ago that horse would of took her hand and
snapped it off at the wrist if that hand had ever come to within
reaching distance.

It would of been a surprise sure enough, and afterwards, she'd
figgered the horse being mean that way would of been on account
of rough treatment by some one. She'd been right, even if that
some one was only a scrub of a degenerate halfbreed and not fit
to be classed amongst humans. Without him coming into the life of
that pony there wouldn't of been no such a horse as The Cougar,
and he'd still be known around to the northern country as Smoky,
the best cowhorse that ever busted a critter.

But anyway, and whatever had been in the past of the horse that
was now better known as Cloudy, didn't worry the young lady any.
To her he was "the sweetest horse" she'd ever seen, and she kept
a supplying him with sugar. If she knowed that lumps of sugar
wasn't the best thing there is to feed to a horse, she'd filled
her pockets with a handful or so of grain instead, or something
that's more fitting to a horse's stomach that way; but she didn't
know, and she sure meant well.

Fine warm spring days came, the kind of days when folks and
animals alike hunt for a place where the sun shines the best. The
last storm of the season had left, and as it went the last of
Cloudy's rest had come to an end. That pony was rearing to go (as
best as he could) when the young lady came and saddled him one
bright afternoon; and as she'd been cooped up considerable
herself, her spirits more than agreed with that of the horse.

Out of the stable old Cloudy went, his legs hardly feeling the
stiffness that was in 'em, and seeming like his hoofs was more
for flying and not at all for touching the ground. The old pony
acted like he wanted to go so bad that the girl didn't have time
heart to hold him back; besides the stable man had told her one
time that it wouldn't hurt to let him run once in a while, if for
a short ways; so, leaning ahead on her saddle, she let the horse
go.

Cloudy et up the distance and brought up sudden changes of
scenery as mile after mile was covered and left behind. With the
warming up of the run, the stiffness went out of his legs. He
felt near young again, and was taking the steep hills more like a
four year old than the old stove up horse he was. Sweat begin a
dripping from him, and as the gait was kept up, that sweat turned
to white lather.

His whole hide was soaked and steaming from the heat of his body,
but he kept right on a wanting to go, and like the girl, the
excitement of the run had got a holt of him till neither realized
they was carrying a good thing too far. The girl's hair was
flying in the breeze that was stirred. She'd lost her hat, but
she wasn't caring. To be going and splitting up some more of that
breeze had got to the girl's head, and cheeks flushed and a
smiling she was sure getting a heap of joy out of just being
alive and a going.

The trail followed along a stream and up a canyon; it kept a
getting steeper and steeper, and the old horse begin to breathe
harder and harder, till finally, his wide open nostrils couldn't
take on enough air to do him no more. He had to slow down or else
drop in his tracks, but Cloudy didn't slow down, and not a sign
showed on him that he was wanting to. He was the kind of a horse
that never quit and would keep right on a going till his heart
stopped.

The girl, not at all realizing, kept a riding and enjoying the
fast pace for all she was worth. She might of rode the old pony
to his death that afternoon, only, the trail stopped and she
couldn't follow it no further. It had washed out during the
spring thaw, and a place ten feet wide and as deep had cut the
trail in two.

She stopped there, and coming out of the trance the fast ride had
put her in, she started looking for a place to cross, but there
wasn't any, and the only way left was to go back on the trail
she'd come.

She put her hands on Cloudy's neck like to tell him how it was
"too bad the trail stopped short that way" but she never got to
say the words. The feel of the sweat and lather that covered the
horse left her dumb, and then she noticed how hard he was
breathing.

The thrill of the run had turned to sudden worry and fear for
what she might of done, and another sort of excitement took a
holt of her as she realized and then wondered what to do. She
stepped away from the horse and wide eyed looked at him. She'd
never seen a horse shake and quiver all over like that one was
doing. He seemed like hardly able to stand up, rocked back and
forth like he was going to keel over any minute. Cloudy was
"jiggered"* and his staggering scared her all the more. She must
do something, and quick.

-----
* Overrun.
-----

The first thing that came to her was to try and cool him off
before, as she figgered, he fainted from being overheated. She
tore at the saddle and worked at the latigos till it was
loosened, then she pulled it off and with the blanket throwed it
to the ground. Steam raised off the pony's back, and at the sight
of that the girl got excited all the more. Then she spotted the
mountain stream below and just a little ways.

She led the horse careful and over to it, and then, thinking
steady of quick ways to cool the horse off, she figgered it a
good idea to lead him in the water and where it was the deepest.
She skipped from boulder to boulder till finally a place was
found where the water came up above the pony's knees, and there
she let him stand, while with her cupped hands she splashed the
cold snow water on his chest, shoulders, and back.

A half an hour or so of that, and the horse at last quit
quivering, showed signs that he was cooled off and got his breath
all o. k. again. After a while he drank, and then drank some
more, and the girl watching him felt sure that the worst was over
and that the horse was saved. She smiled, petted him on the neck,
and felt relieved at the natural way he'd got to acting again.

The sun was hitting for the tall peaks to the west when the girl
finally decided Cloudy was all right again and fit to start back.
He was good and dry by then and felt cool; she'd kept him in the
shade all the while, and being that mountain shade is not at all
warm at that time of the year, the old pony was near shivering
from the cold by the time the girl led him back to the saddle and
put it on him again.

The ride back to the stable was like a funeral march as compared
with the one starting out. The horse was kept on a slow walk all
the way, and every care was taken by the girl so that only the
easiest trail was followed. She worried as she rode along and
noticed that the horse didn't seem to be the same as before; his
step wasn't so sure and he'd stumble when there was nothing on
the ground for him to stumble on, and then he'd sway like he was
weak.

It was away after dark when finally the stable was reached, the
stable man was there and waiting, and greeting the young lady
with a smile he asked:

"Did you water Cloudy before you left?"

"No," says the girl, "but I watered him on the mountain where I
turned to come back."

"The reason I asked, is because the new stable boy I hired forgot
to water him this morning, or he thought _I_ did."

The grey haired man didn't get to ride Cloudy the next day, nor
did anybody else, for that horse was hardly able to even get out
of the stall; his legs was like so many sticks of wood and with
no more bend in 'em than them same sticks have. His head hung
near to the ground, and not a spear of the hay that'd been put in
the manger had been touched.

The girl came to the stable that noon, and would of cried at the
sight of him, only the stable man came up, and she held the tears
back best as she could.

"Looks like he's done for," says that feller as he came up. He
didn't ask the girl what she'd done, cause a look at the horse
told him the whole story better than the girl could of; and as he
figgered, a man has to take them chances when he's renting horses
out that way. Besides, the girl looked so downhearted about it
that he didn't have the heart to do any more but try to cheer her
up.

"I'll doctor him up the best I can, and maybe get him to come out
of it a little."

The girl took hopes at them words, and her eyes a shining, asked:

"And can I come and help you?"

Every day from then on the time the girl had used a riding Cloudy
was spent in the stable and by that horse. Liniments and
medicines of all kinds was dug up and bought and used, and as the
stable man watched her trying to do her best, he'd only shake his
head. He knowed it was no use, and if the horse did come out of
it, he'd never come out of it enough to ever be of any use as a
saddle horse again.

The horse had been foundered.--The twenty-four hours without
water, the hard run and sweating up, and then cooled off sudden
in ice cold water, and drinking his fill of that same water, and
all at once, had crippled him and stoved him up in a way where
he'd be plum useless, only maybe for slow work and hooked to a
wagon.

A month went by, and the doctoring went on, the girl always a
hoping; and then one day she came to the stable to find the horse
gone. She hunted up the stable man and finally, after a lot of
running around, found him up in the hay loft.

"I figgered," says that feller on finding himself cornered, "that
it'd be best to turn him loose. There's good range up north a
ways and thinking it'd do him more good to be loose that way on
good feed, I just took him up there."

But there was no good range in that country, not for many miles.
The stable man had lied to save the girl's feelings. And instead,
realizing that he couldn't turn the horse loose only maybe to let
him starve, and being he couldn't afford to keep and feed a
useless horse, there'd been only one way out. He'd sold him to a
man who bought old horses and killed 'em for chicken feed.



CHAPTER XIV

"DARK CLOUDS, THEN TALL GRASS"


The man collecting old wore out and crippled horses had come
along and led him away. He had a little salt-grass pasture a
short distance out of town, and there's where he took the old
horse. He turned him loose amongst a few more old horses, and
would keep him there till the time come when some "chicken man"
around town would need the carcass of one of the horses to feed
to his chickens; then the horse what looked like it had the
shortest to live would be killed and hauled away.

It didn't look like the end was very far for the mouse colored
horse. All the work he'd done and the interest he'd had while
under the names of Smoky and The Cougar, had stopped being
accounted for, and sort of pinched out under the name of Cloudy;
and now he had no name. He was just "chicken feed," and soon, if
he stayed in that pasture, all what he'd been and done would be
blotted out with the crack of a rifle shot.

But the old pony had no hint of that, and as it was he wasn't for
quitting as yet. His old stiff legs was still able to carry him
around some, the doctoring he'd got at the stable had helped him
more than what had been hoped, and then getting out in a pasture
where he could keep moving around as he wanted to was helping him
some more. Besides, his old heart was still strong, quite a bit
solid meat was covering his ribs, and with the salt and wire
grass to graze on he could still make out and mighty well.

A few weeks went by when once in a while and every few days, one
of the old horses he was pasturing with was caught, led out, a
rifle shot was heard, and he'd never be seen no more. Other old
horses was brought in and they'd pasture on with him till one by
one they'd also disappear only to be replaced by more of 'em.

The old mouse colored horse must of looked like he was good to
live for a long time yet; anyway, the "chicken horse" man had
kept him, maybe for emergency, and so he wouldn't be out of
horses if an order for one came; and that kind was hard to get.

Then one day, a man came, looked all the old horses over. And
finally, like he'd decided, pointed a finger towards the horse
that'd last been known as Cloudy. That pony was caught and led
out the same way other horses had disappeared, but no rifle shot
was heard. Instead, a lot of parleying went on.

Cloudy was led alongside of an old bony something that'd once
been a horse. The old rack of bones was hooked onto a light wagon
and seeming like hardly able to stand as the eyes of the two men
went from him to Cloudy, to sort of figger out which of the two
was worth the most, and how much the most.

Finally the dickering came to an end and seemed like agreeable to
both parties. Three dollars to boot was handed, and the trade was
made. The rack of bones was unhooked, the harness pulled off of
him, and turned loose in the chicken horse pasture. Then Cloudy's
old heart missed a few beats as that same harness was picked up
again and throwed over his own back.

As true a saddle horse, and once hard to set on, as the mouse
colored horse had been, the feel of that harness on his back was
as much the same as if a shovel or a hayfork had been handed to a
cow-puncher with the idea of his using 'em. The old horse felt it
a plain disgrace, and snorted as it was buckled around him to
stay; but the black whiskered hombre that buckled it on never
seemed to notice or care that the horse had no liking for the
collar and all the straps.

He kept on a fastening the harness, and when that was done, he
jerked the old pony around and backed him into the shafts of the
same old wagon that the rack of bones had been unhooked out of.
Cloudy kept on a snorting and looked on one side and then the
other as the shafts of the wagon was raised. If only he could act
the way his heart wanted him to; but he didn't have the strength,
the action to put in it, nor the energy no more. The most he
could do was to snort, quiver, and shake his head.

But, as he was all hooked up and the man jumping in the wagon
grabbed his whip, Old Cloudy done his best to try and get back to
some of the life and tearing ability that'd once been his. He
kicked a couple of times at the rattling thing on wheels and
which he was fastened to, then he tried to buck some and finally
wound up by wanting to run away; but the harness held and the
rattling thing behind came right along wherever he went, and
worse yet, he felt the stinging lash of the man's whip as he
fought on and tried to clear himself. Then the jerking of the bit
thru his mouth, and with all that to show how useless his
fighting and wanting to get away really was, the old pony soon
lost heart. He finally settled down to a choppy lope, then a trot
that was just as choppy, and at last to a walk.

Another sting of the whip was felt on his flank, and at the same
time, the line was jerked at the bit, and Cloudy, still pulling
the wagon, was made to turn up a lane. At the end of the lane was
a shack made of old pieces of boards and covered over with the
tin of old oil-cans. To the right of that and a little ways
further was another shack that looked like a mate to the first,
only worse, and that one was going to be Cloudy's place of rest
and shelter whenever work was over.

There he was pulled to a stop, unhooked, led to the manger, and
tied. The stable door was closed with a bang, and after a while
the old horse, still wanting to cling to life regardless of what
came, stuck his nose in the manger to nibble on some of what was
in it. He reached for a mouthful of what he'd naturally took for
hay, and chewed for a spell, but he didn't chew on it long. There
was a musty taste about the long dirty brown stems that didn't at
all fit in with any hay he'd ever et. The kind that'd been put in
the manger for him to eat was the same that the livery stableman
had used to put in the stalls and bed the horses down with. It
was straw, only this was musty straw and wouldn't even make good
bedding for horses.

Cloudy felt hungry long before the next morning came, and often
thru the night he'd nosed into the musty straw with the hopes of
finding a few stems that'd do to fill an empty space, but there
wasn't any to be found. The old rack of bones that'd been there
before him had looked for some too, and with no better luck.
Cloudy's new owner figgered it cheaper to swap horses with the
"chicken man" and give him a few dollars to boot whenever any
horse of his give out; he wasn't going to buy no high-priced hay
for no horse. The straw was given to him for the getting and
would keep any horse alive and working for at least six months,
and then, or whenever the horse would be too weak to go any more,
he'd trade him for another. Any kind of a horse, fat or thin,
could always be used by the chicken man, and in trade, he'd
always take one of the fattest to take the place of the one he'd
just starved near to death. That way, year in year out, he'd keep
a draining the last of the life of every horse he'd get his claws
onto.

His property, and where he starved the horses into making a
living for him, took in a couple of acres. Half of that land was
rocks, mostly, and where he kept a few chickens. He bought, or
stole a little grain for _them_; but they well repaid him. Every
time he went to town there was a basket of eggs in his wagon and
which he sold well. The other half of his land was cultivated,
and where vegetables of all kinds had been made to grow. There's
where the help of a horse was needed, to pull the cultivator or
the plow, then the hauling of the vegetables to town, and once
there, any odd job that could be got and which would bring a few
dollars for the use of the horse and wagon.

It was bright and early the next morning when the work begin for
Cloudy. The man showed his teeth in a grin as he looked in the
manger while putting the harness on the horse, and noticing the
straw in there hadn't hardly been touched, remarked:

"You'll be eating some of that before you get thru."

Cloudy was made acquainted with many different kinds of
implements and work that day. All was mighty strange and plum
against the ways of working which he'd been broke to do. It was
pull, and pull, one contraption and then another, back and forth
thru furrows, turn at the end and then back again. If he slowed
down, or hesitated, wondering what to do, there was the whip
always on hand to make him decide and mighty quick.

His muscles, having developed under the saddle, used to pack
weight, and set that way, wasn't for getting next to the change
very easy. Looking thru a collar and pulling steady was so
different to heading off and turning a wild-eyed critter. It
wasn't at all like coming out of the chute in front of a
grandstand and seeing how many jumps could be put into one; nor
didn't compare even with packing equestrians around. He'd felt
some free under the saddle, and even tho all of it had been real
work, there'd always been something that fitted in and which made
him feel natural.

But now, with all these straps a hanging onto him, there was a
feeling that he was tied down,--them straps even seemed to wrap
around his heart at times and keep it from beating. And taking
all, the strange hard work, the sting of the whip-lash on his
ribs, nothing fit to eat after he was tired out and the day was
over, it was no wonder that the old pony's heart begin to shrivel
up on him.

As the long days run into weeks and the work in the field and in
the town got to bearing down on him, the old pony even got so he
couldn't hate no more; abuse or kindness had both got to be the
same, and one brought out no more results or show of interest
than the other. He went to the jerk of the lines like without
realizing; and when he was finally led into the stable when night
come the feeling was the same. There he et the musty straw
because it was under his nose. He didn't mind the taste of it, he
didn't mind anything, any more.

Of the odd jobs that Cloudy's owner would get to do around town
and whenever he could get away from his truck and chicken farm,
there was one which he looked forward to the most, and which the
thought of made him rub his hands together with pleasure. It was
that of scattering the posters advertising The Annual Rodeo, and
Celebration, that was pulled off in town and every early fall.
But that wasn't all. There was many other things for him to do at
that time for which he could charge without anybody ever finding
out whether all he'd been paid to do really had been done.

That year as usual he was ready, and right on the dot, to take on
some more of that kind of work. He'd hooked up the old mouse
colored horse and taking a load of vegetables on the way in,
stuck around town doing the different kinds of work the rodeo
association had furnished him with. He'd be on the go all day and
prodding the old horse into a trot, sometimes even if the wagon
was loaded.

It'd be away into the night before he'd turn the tired horse
towards home. Every day was a great day, _for the man_, there was
so many people around to make the town lively; and being most of
'em was strangers, he could get to within talking distance of 'em
easy enough, and a few would even stand to have him around for a
few minutes at the time.

Them strangers had come to see the rodeo. Most of 'em was from
other towns around, and mixed in the crowd once in a while could
be seen the high-crowned hat of a cowboy who'd come to ride,
rope, and bulldog. Then at the Casa Grande Hotel, and registered
there, was many cattle buyers from the northern States.

They'd come to bid on the big herds of cattle that was being
crowded acrost the border from Mexico; for Pancho Villa and the
Yaquis was making it hard for the cattleman of that country.
Villa took the cattle to feed his army, while the Yaquis run off
whatever Villa overlooked; and the cowman that could, and had any
stock left, soon seen where if he wanted to save anything of what
he'd worked to accumulate, he'd have to rush whatever that was to
the border and get it on American soil mighty quick.

That's how come that the stockyards of the border towns was
filled with cattle and that the hotels along them same towns was
filled with cattle buyers. The Casa Grande Hotel was the most
filled on account that along with the business of buying cattle,
a little pleasure could be got there afterwards. A rodeo was in
that town, and night celebrations; and being that them cattle
buyers was still as much cowboys as ever, a good bucking contest
and the fun afterwards couldn't be overlooked, not if it could be
helped. "Yep, the town was sure lively."

Two of the buyers was setting in the lobby of the hotel one
morning and a talking on the first day's event of the rodeo. A
telegraph pole stuck up right before their vision and on the edge
of the sidewalk, and nailed to that pole was a poster advertising
the rodeo, and with a photograph of a bucking horse in action on
it, told all about "the great bucking horse and outlaw The Grey
Cougar, the only one that could compare, in wickedness and
bucking ability, to The Cougar, that once famous man killing
horse."

The two went on to talking about the rodeo, and naturally the
talk drifted on about The Grey Cougar, and "_how_ he could buck."

"The boys tell me," says one of the men, "that this Grey Cougar
horse couldn't hold a candle to the real Cougar when it come to
bucking and fighting. According to that, the other horse must of
been _some_ wicked."

The man was still talking on the subject, when an old mouse
colored horse, pulling an old wagon loaded down with vegetables,
came to a stiff legged stop, and right by the telegraph pole on
which the poster telling all about The Grey Cougar was nailed.
The man in the lobby grinned a little at the sight of the old
horse a standing there like in comparison with the famous grey
outlaw, and pointing a finger in his direction, he remarked:

"There must be the Old Cougar right there, Clint. Anyway he's got
the same color."

The man called Clint grinned some at the joke, but the grin soon
faded away as he kept a looking at the old horse, and noticed the
condition he was in. Then he seen the saddle-marks that was all
over the pony's back, and he says:

"You can never tell, that old pony might of been mighty hard to
set at one time too--but the way he looks like now, them times
are sure done past and gone."

"Yep," agreed the other man, "it's a miracle that pony can
navigate at all--I wonder how it is that this Humane Society
hombre that's sticking around the rodeo grounds don't happen to
notice such as this. I'd like to help hang a feller for driving a
horse like that around."

The conversation was held up for a spell as time two men watched
the bewhiskered man come out of the hotel with an empty basket
and climbed the wagon on which the old mouse colored horse was
hooked. He grabbed the lines and the whip both at the same time
and went to work a putting the horse into a trot.

Clint was for getting up as he seen the whip land on the old
pony's hide, but the other man grabbed a hold of his arm and
says:

"Never mind, old boy, most likely that Humane Society outfit'll
fall on the bolshevik's neck before he gets very far."

The man called Clint set down again, but he was boiling up
inside, and he didn't at all look pleasant as the conversation
was resumed and noticed how his friend turned it to other things
and away from the subject of old horses and such. He wasn't for
answering very quick when that same friend went on to talking
about that country to the north;--how he'd heard rumors that the
Rocking II might be selling out in another year or so. "I wonder
why?" he asks.

Clint, turned to his friend and grinning at his idea of changing
time subject that way, finally answered: "I guess it's because
Old Tom feels the end a coming, besides he's getting crowded all
around by small outfits, and his range ain't holding up like it
used to."

"But what are you going to do when the Rocking R sells out? You
left that country quite a few times the last few years, and I
notice you always go back like there was no other that suited
you."

"I've got that fixed," says Clint gradually taking more heart in
the new subject, and there he tried to describe some; "You know
about where that camp is where I used to break horses when I
first started working for the Rocking R? It's where the outfit
used to run their stock horses. Well, I bought that camp from Old
Tom Jarvis,--that is, I talked him into selling it to me, and
four thousand acres of the fine range around to go with it.

"I'm thinking that this shipment I'm getting together now will be the
last Old Tom'll ever buy, and by the time I get this train-load of
Sonora Reds north and delivered to him, I'll have enough money to make
the final payment on my place and still have enough left to buy a few
head of cattle and start stocking it."

Clint often thought of his little place up in the heart of the
cow country to the north. He could picture his own cattle ranging
there and packing a brand of his on their slick hides. He'd a
long time hoped for the likes, and at last he was getting it. A
couple more days now, and he'd be heading north again, and there
to stay, this time.

The last day of the rodeo had come, and Clint was to start with
his train load of stock that night. Him and his friend was
setting in the lobby of the hotel that evening a talking and
wondering when they'd be seeing one another again, when outside
and by the telegraph pole, came the same old mouse colored horse
and stopped not an inch from where the two men had seen him a
couple of days before.

Both was quick to spot him again this time, and right then, for
some reason or other, the conversation died down. The first sight
of that old pony hadn't been forgot, and when he showed up this
second time, right before their eyes, he was like reminding 'em,
and natural like, set the two men to thinking. That old shadow of
a horse told some of the hard knocks of life, of things that was
past and gone and which could of been bettered while the
bettering could be done.

It was while the thinking was going on that way, that Clint sort
of felt a faint, far away something a knocking and from down the
bottom of his think tank. That something was trying hard to come
back to life as that man's eyes kept a going over the pony's
blazed face and bony frame, but it was buried so far underneath
so many things that'd been stacked there that the knocking was
pretty well muffled up. It'd have to be helped by some sort of a
sudden jolt before it could come out on top.

The jolt came as the vegetable man got his seat on the wagon and
as usual reached for the whip. Clint's friend a trying to keep
him from running out and starting a rompus had tried to draw his
interest by asking:

"What's become of that cowhorse _Smoky_, that used to--?"

But the question was left for _him_ to wonder about, for Clint
wasn't there to answer. Instead the hotel door slammed and only a
glimpse of that same cowboy could be seen as he passed by the
lobby window. In less than it takes to tell it, he was up on the
wagon, took a bulldogging holt of the surprised vegetable man,
and by his whiskers, drug him off his seat and down to earth.

The telephone on the desk of the sheriff's office rang till it
near danced a jig, and when that feller lifted the receiver, a
female voice was heard to holler:

"Somebody is killing somebody else with a whip, by the Casa
Grande Hotel. _Hurry_! _Quick_!"

The sheriff appeared on the scene and took in the goings on at a
glance. Like a man who knowed his business, his eyes went to
looking for what might of caused the argument as he came. He
looked at the old horse whose frame showed thru the hide, then
the whip marks on that hide. He knowed horses as well as he did
men; and when he noticed more marks of the same whip on the
bewhiskered man's face, he stood his ground, watched, and then
grinned.

"Say, cowboy," he finally says, "don't scatter that hombre's
remains too much; you know we got to keep record of that kind the
same as if it was a white man, and I don't want to be looking all
over the streets to find out who he was."

Clint turned at the sound of the voice, and sizing up the
grinning sheriff, went back to his victim and broke the butt end
of the whip over his head; after which he wiped his hands, and
proceeded to unhook the old horse off the wagon.

That evening was spent in "investigating." Clint and the sheriff
went to the chicken-horse man and found out enough from him about
the vegetable man and his way of treating horses to put that
hombre in a cool place and keep him there for a spell.

"I'm glad to've caught on to that feller's doings," remarks the
sheriff as him and Clint went to the livery stable, their next
place of investigation.

There Clint listened mighty close as he learned a heap about the
mouse colored horse when he was known as Cloudy. The stable man
went on to tell as far as he knowed about the horse and the whole
history of him, and when that pony was known thru the Southwest
and many other places, as _The Cougar_, the wickedest bucking
horse and fighting outlaw the country had ever layed eyes on.

Clint was kinda proud in hearing that. He'd heard of The Cougar
and that pony's bucking ability even up to the Canadian line and
acrost it, and to himself he says: "That Smoky horse never did do
things halfways." But he got to wondering, and then asked how
come the pony had turned out to be the kind of a horse. That, the
stable man didn't know. It was news to him that the horse had
ever been anything else, and as he says:

"The first that was seen of that horse is when some cowboys found
him on the desert, amongst a bunch of wild horses, and packing a
saddle. Nobody had ever showed up to claim him, and as that pony
had been more than inclined to buck and fight is how come he was
sold as a bucking horse--and believe me, old timer," went on the
stable man, a shaking his head, "he was _some_ bucking horse."

"Well," says the sheriff, "that's another clue run to the ground
with nothing left of, but the remains."

That night, the big engine was hooked on to the trainload of
cattle as to per schedule and started puffing its way on to the
north. In the last car, the one next to the caboose, and the
least crowded, a space had been partitioned off. In that space
was a bale of good hay, a barrel of water, and an old mouse
colored horse.

The winter that came was very different to any the old mouse
colored horse had ever put in. The first part of it went by with
him like in a trance, not realizing and hardly seeing. His old
heart had dwindled down till only a sputtering flame was left,
and that threatened to go out with the first hint of any kind of
breeze.

Clint had got the old horse in a warm box stall, filled the manger full
of the best blue joint hay there was, and even bedded him down with more
of the same; water was in that same stall and where it could be easy
reached, and then that cowboy had bought many a dollar's worth of
condition powders, and other preparations which would near coax life
back even in a dead body.

Two months went by when all seemed kinda hopeless, but Clint
worked on and kept a hoping. He'd brought the old horse in the
house, and made him a bed by the stove if that would of helped;
and far as that goes, he'd of done anything else, just so a spark
of life showed in the old pony's eyes; but he'd done all he could
do, and as he'd lay a hand on the old skinny neck and felt of the
old hide, he'd cuss and wish for the chance of twisting out of
shape who all had been responsible. Then his expression would
change, and he'd near bust out crying as he'd think back and
compare the old wreck with what that horse had been.

As much as Clint had liked Smoky, the old wreck of a shadow of
that horse wasn't wanting for any of the same liking. It was
still in the cowboy's heart a plenty, and if anything, more so on
account that the old pony was now needing help, and a friend like
he'd never needed before; and Clint was more on hand with the
horse, now that he was worthless, than he'd been when Smoky was
the four hundred dollar cowhorse and worth more.

Finally, and after many a day of care and worrying, Clint begin
to notice with a glad smile that the pony's hide was loosening
up. Then after a week or so more of shoving hay and grain,
condition powders, and other things down the old pony's throat, a
layer of meat begin to spread over them bones and under that
hide. Then one day a spark showed in the pony's eye, soon after
that he started taking interest in the things around.

As layer after layer of meat and then tallow accumulated and
rounded the sharp corners of Smoky's frame, that pony was for
noticing more and more till after a while his interest spread
enough, and with a clearer vision, went as far as to take in the
man, who kept a going and coming, once in a while touched him,
and then talked.

Clint liked to had a fit one day, when talking to the horse and
happened to say _Smoky_, he noticed that pony cock an ear.

The recuperating of the horse went pretty fast from then on; and
as the winter days howled past and early spring drawed near,
there was no more fear of Smoky's last stand being anywheres
near. As the days growed longer and the sun got warmer, there was
times when Clint would lead the horse out and turn him loose to
walk around in the sunshine, and that way get the blood to
circulating. Smoky would sometimes mosey along for hours around
the place and then start out on some trail, but always when the
sun went down, he was by the stable door again and then Clint
would let him in.

Clint would watch him by the hour whenever the horse was out that
way, and he'd wonder, as he kept his eye on him, if that pony
remembered, if the knocks he'd got from different people in
different countries, didn't forever make him forget his home
range and all that went with it. Not many miles away was where he
was born; the big mountains now covered with snow was the same he
was raised on, and which he tore up with his hoofs as he played
while a little colt, and by his mammy. The corrals by the stable
and sheds was the ones he was first run into when branded, and in
them, a few years later, broke to saddle; but what Clint would
wonder the most, as he watched, is whether Smoky remembered him.

The cowboy had kept a hoping that sometime he'd be greeted with a
nicker as he'd open the stable door in the morning. Clint felt if
the horse remembered, he would nicker that way at the sight of
him and like he used to; but morning after morning went by, and
even tho Smoky seemed full of life and rounded out to near
natural again, no nicker was ever heard.

"Somebody must of stretched that pony's heartstrings to the
breaking point," he remarked one day, as he'd stopped, wondering
as usual, and looked at the horse.

Finally spring came sure enough, and broke up the winter. Green
grass-covered ridges took the place of snow banks, and the
cottonwoods along the creeks was beginning to bud. It was during
one of them fine spring days, when riding along and looking the
country over, Clint run acrost a bunch of horses. In the bunch
was a couple of colts just a few days old, and knowing that old
ponies have such a strong interest and liking for the little
fellers, the cowboy figgered the sight of 'em would help
considerable in bringing Smoky's heart up a few notches, and
maybe to remembering. He fell in behind the bunch and hazed 'em
all towards the corrals, and as Smoky, turned loose that day,
spotted the bunch, his head went up. Then he noticed the little
fellers, and that old pony, gathering all the speed there was in
him, headed straight for the bunch and amongst 'em.

Clint corralled him and all the rest together and setting on his
horse at the gate, watched Smoky while that horse was having the
time of his life getting acquainted. The pony dodged kicks and
bites and went back and forth thru the bunch, and a spark showed
in his eye which hadn't been there for many a day.

The cowboy could near see the horse smile at time little colts;
and he was surprised at the show of action and interest the old
pony had reserved, or gained. He was acting near like a
two-year-old, and Clint grinned as he watched.

"Daggone his old hide," says the cowboy, "it looks to me like
he's good to live and enjoy life for many summers yet"; then
thinking strong, he went on, "and maybe in that time he might get
to remembering me again--I wonder."

He watched Smoky a while longer and till he got acquainted some,
and at last deciding it'd be for the best to let him go, he
reined his horse out of the gate and let the bunch run by. The
old pony seemed to hesitate some as the bunch filed out. He liked
their company mighty well but something held him back; then a
horse nickered, and even tho that nicker might not of been meant
for him, it was enough to make him decide. He struck out on a
high lope and towards the bunch. One of the little colts and full
of play waited for him, and nipping the old horse in the flanks,
run by his side till the bunch was caught up with--Smoky was
_living_ again.

Clint sat on his horse and watched the bunch lope out over a
ridge and out of sight; and with a last glimpse at the mouse
colored rump he grinned a little, but it was a sorry grin, and as
he kept a looking the way Smoky had gone, he says:

"I wonder if he ever will."

With the green grass growing near an inch a day, Clint wasn't
worried much on how old Smoky was making it. He figgered a horse
couldn't die if he wanted to, not on that range at that time of
the year; but some day soon he was going to try and locate the
old horse and find out for sure how he really was. Then a lot of
work came on which kept the cowboy from going out soon as he
wanted to, and then one morning, bright and early, as he stepped
out to get a bucket of water, the morning sun throwed a shadow on
the door; and as he stuck his head out a nicker was heard.

Clint dropped his bucket in surprise at what he heard and then
seen. For, standing out a ways, slick and shiny, was the old
mouse colored horse. The good care the cowboy had handed him, and
afterwards, the ramblings over the old home range, had done its
work. The heart of Smoky had come to life again, and full size.



THE END





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