Mounting our horses, Jerry, Hal, Ned, and myself set out in pursuit of antelope, whose tracks could be seen in all directions about us.
We had ridden two or three miles without starting game of any kind, when Jerry, who was a short distance in advance of us, suddenly dismounted, and began studying the ground attentively.
“Hilloa!” exclaimed Ned, “Jerry’s struck something.”
As we rode up to him, he said,—
“Wal, boys, here’s game, sartin sure.”
“What is it, Jerry?” inquired Hal.
“What is it? Why, a fresh Comanche trail; and ’tain’t no war party, neither, for they’ve got their lodges with ’em.”
“How do you know that?” inquired Ned.”
“How do you know you’re settin’ on that horse?” asked Jerry. “Why, I know one just ez well ez you know t’other. Can’t you see whar the ends of the poles dragged in the dirt behind ’em. Anybody could see that, I should think.”
“How old is the trail, Jerry?” inquired I.
“That trail waz made afore eight o’clock this mornin’,” was the answer.
“Before eight o’clock,” sneered Hal. “Why don’t you say that the Comanches passed this spot at precisely seventeen minutes past six o’clock this morning? You might just as well be particular, Jerry.”
“Come, Jerry, tell us how you know when the Indians passed?” said I.
“Sartin I will,” he good-humoredly replied. “Yer see we hed a purty hevy dew last night, but the sun waz up so high that the grass waz all dry at eight o’clock. Wall, now, if you’ll look you’ll see, that where the grass was pressed down by the horses’ feet into the earth, a little of the sand stuck to it, (coz it waz damp), that has dried on since. Now if the trail bed been made after eight o’clock, when the grass was dry, why, it wouldn’t stick eny more than it does now.”
“A very satisfactory explanation,” said I.
“Now what I propose is,” continued Jerry, “thet we just foller the trail, and we’ll strike something afore many hours, ez sure’s my name’s Jerry Vance.”
“But we may get into trouble,” urged I.
“Ther ain’t no danger. It’s a party of squaws and pappooses, I reckon, coz yer see ther ain’t more’n four horses with ’em.”
“I’m agreed,” said I, and away we galloped over the beautiful green prairie; but, before we had gone a mile, a fine large herd of antelope appeared, quietly grazing upon a knoll at a little distance, who, when they saw us, stood for an instant curiously regarding us, and then trotted leisurely away.
“They’re kinder wild, I reckon,” said Jerry. “These Injuns must hev bin huntin’ ’em, and we might chase ’em all day without gittin’ a shot. So we’ll just tie our horses in thet chaparral down there, out of sight, and then we’ll call ’em up.”
We dismounted, and securing our horses, followed Jerry. He removed the ramrod from his rifle, and tied to one end of it an old-fashioned, red bandana handkerchief. This done, he planted the other end firmly in the ground, leaving the flag to flutter in the breeze.