“It ain’t the same thing at all,” explained George patiently; for it is ever the man’s part to try to be patient with the feminine ignorance of dogs and baseball and other essential things about which women seem to have no intuition. “You see, I ain’t goin’ to drive him loose. A dog shouldn’t ever be a loose leader unless he’s a wonder at managin’ all the rest, an’ young dogs ain’t generally had the trainin’ for it. After a dog has showed he can find the trail, an’ keep it, an’ set the pace, an’ make the others mind him, bein’ a loose leader’s kind of an honor he’s promoted to; like bein’ a General in the army. He don’t have t’ be hitched up to the tow-line any more, an’ pull; he just has t’ think, an’ keep the team out o’ trouble.”
“It’s too bad that dogs aren’t driven with lines instead of spoken orders—then there wouldn’t be all of the bother about a leader every time.” Both George and Danny looked at her for a moment with a contempt they barely succeeded in concealing. Even Ben Edwards was unpleasantly surprised, and he was not given to regarding her vagaries with unfriendly criticism.
Drive with lines! Bother about a leader! Why, if dogs were driven with lines there would be no more interest in driving a dog team than there is in driving a delivery wagon, or running an automobile. All of the fascination of having your dogs answer to your will, voluntarily and intelligently, would be lost in the mechanical response to the jerk and the pull of the reins.
She was utterly hopeless. There was no use of a further waste of words with her on such matters.
George turned to Danny and Ben. They were discerning, and capable of grasping a dog man’s point of view. “Then there’s Queen, for one wheeler. You know we’re only allowed three dogs, an’ we got t’ be mighty careful.”
“I expect it’s pretty near ‘s important t’ git the right wheel dogs as ‘tis a leader, ain’t it, George? Bein’ next t’ the sled an’ so close t’ the driver an’ load, they allers seem t’ kinda manage the business end o’ things.”
“That’s right, Ben. That’s why we got t’ be sure o’ gettin’ good wheelers. In racin’ there’s no load, but it takes some managin’ just the same t’ keep the sled right on side hills an’ goin’ down steep slopes. O’ course in a short race I wouldn’t get into the sled at all, an’ on the runners at the back I can get my feet on the brake easy. But Father an’ Matt say that you want your wheelers t’ know just what their duties is if the brake gets out o’ order, or any thin’ goes wrong.”
“Wheelers have to be clever, and strong and tractable then—rather a big order,” murmured the Woman somewhat meekly, as one seeking information.
“Yes, ma’am,” replied Danny politely, “all o’ that, an’ I was just wonderin’ if Queen ’ud do for the place.”
Queen, another present of Matt’s to George, was a Gordon Setter with a strong admixture of native blood, and was hopeless as a regular team dog because of her high-strung and irritable disposition. Naturally nervous, she had become, with the advent of her first family, so fierce that it was dangerous for any one to approach her except George, and for him she cheerfully left her puppies to be of service in sled pulling.