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- Old Spookses' Pass - 3/37 -


A low-set critter, not much account For heft or looks, but one of them sort Thet kin fetch a herd at his darn'd heels With a toss of his horns or a mite of a snort, Fur a fight or a run; an' thar wus I, Pressin' clus to the steel of his heavin' flank, An' cussin' an' shoutin'--while overhead The moon in the black clouds tremblin' sank,


Like a bufferler overtook by the wolves, An' pull'd tew the ground by the scuddin' pack. The herd rush'd oh with a din an' crash, Dim es a shadder, vast an' black; Couldn't tell ef a hide wus black or white, But from the dim surges a-roarin' by Bust long red flashes--the flamin' light From some old steer's furious an' scareful eye.


Thet pass in the Rockies fairly roar'd; An sudden' es winkin' came the bang An rattle of thunder. Tew see the grit Of thet peart little chunk of a tough mustang! Not a buck nor a shy!--he gev a snort Thet shook the foam on his steamin' hide, An' leap'd along--Wal, pard, ye bet I'd a healthy show fur a lively ride.


An' them cowboys slept in the leetle camp, Calm es three kids in a truckle bed; Declar the crash wus enough tew put Life in the dust of the sleepin' dead! The thunder kept droppin' its awful shells, One at a minute, on mountain an' rock: The pass with its stone lips thunder'd back; An' the rush an' roar an' whirlin' shock Of the runnin' herd wus fit tew bust A tenderfoot's heart hed he chanc'd along; But I jest let out of my lungs an' throat A rippin' old verse of a herdsman's song,


An' sidl'd the mustang closer up, 'Longside of the leader, an' hit him flat On his steamin' flank with a lightsome stroke Of the end of my limber lariat; He never swerv'd, an' we thunder'd on, Black in the blackness, red in the red Of the lightnin' blazin' with ev'ry clap That bust from the black guns overhead!


The mustang wus shod, an' the lightnin' bit At his iron shoes each step he run, Then plung'd in the yearth--we rode in flame, Fur the flashes roll'd inter only one, Same es the bellers made one big roar; Yet thro' the whirl of din an' flame I sung an' shouted, an' call'd the steer I sidl'd agin by his own front name,


An' struck his side with my fist an' foot-- 'Twas jest like hittin' a rushin' stone, An' he thunder'd ahead--I couldn't boss The critter a mossel, I'm free tew own. The sweat come a-pourin' down my beard; Ef ye wonder wharfor, jest ye spread Yerself far a ride with a runnin' herd, A yawnin' gulch half a mile ahead.


Three hundred foot from its grinnin' lips Tew the roarin' stream on its stones below. Once more I hurl'd the mustang up Agin the side of the cuss call'd Joe; Twan't a mite of use--he riz his heels Up in the air, like a scuddin' colt; The herd mass'd closer, an' hurl'd down The roarin' Pass, like a thunderbolt.


I couldn't rein off--seem'd swept along In the rush an' roar an' thunderin' crash; The lightnin' struck at the runnin' herd With a crack like the stroke of a cowboy's lash. Thar! I could see it; I tell ye, pard, Things seem'd whittl'd down sort of fine-- We wasn't five hundred feet from the gulch, With its mean little fringe of scrubby pine.


What could stop us? I grit my teeth; Think I pray'd--ain't sartin of thet; When, whizzin' an' singin', thar came the rush Right past my face of a lariat! "Bully fur you, old pard!" I roar'd, Es it whizz'd roun' the leader's steamin' chest, An' I wheel'd the mustang fur all he was wuth Kerslap on the side of the old steer's breast.


He gev a snort, an' I see him swerve-- I foller'd his shoulder clus an' tight; Another swerve, an' the herd begun To swing around.--Shouts I, "All right "Ye've fetch'd 'em now!" The mustang gave A small, leettle whinney. I felt him flinch. Sez I, "Ye ain't goin' tew weaken now, Old feller, an' me in this darn'd pinch?"


"No," sez he, with his small, prickin' ears, Plain es a human could speak; an' me-- I turn'd my head tew glimpse ef I could, Who might the chap with the lariat be. Wal, Pard, I weaken'd--ye bet yer life! Thar wasn't a human in sight around, But right in front of me come the beat Of a hoss's hoofs on the tremblin' ground--


Steddy an' heavy--a slingin' lope; A hefty critter with biggish bones Might make jest sich--could hear the hoofs Es they struck on the rattlin', rollin' stones-- The jingle of bit--an' clar an' shrill A whistle es ever left cowboy's lip, An' cuttin' the air, the long, fine hiss Of the whirlin' lash of a cowboy's whip.


I crowded the mustang back, ontil He riz on his haunches--an' I sed, "In the Maker's name, who may ye be?" Sez a vice, "Old feller, jest ride ahead!" "All right!" sez I, an' I shook the rein. "Ye've turn'd the herd in a hansum style-- Whoever ye be, I'll not back down!" An' I didn't, neither,--ye bet yer pile!


Clus on the heels of that unseen hoss, I rode on the side of the turnin' herd, An' once in a while I answer'd back A shout or a whistle or cheerin' word-- From lips no lightnin' was strong tew show. 'Twas sort of scareful, that midnight ride; But we'd got our backs tew the gulch--fur that I'd hev foller'd a curiouser sort of guide!


'Twas kind of scareful tew watch the herd, Es the plungin' leaders squirm'd an' shrank-- Es I heerd the flick of the unseen lash Hiss on the side of a steamin' flank. Guess the feller was smart at the work! We work'd them leaders round, ontil They overtook the tail of the herd, An' the hull of the crowd begun tew "mill."


Old Spookses' Pass - 3/37

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