[Illustration: White mustang stallion with his bunch of blacks in snake gulch]
I needed no one to tell me that this proceeding was entirely beyond his comprehension. In his astonishment he forgot to spit and growl, and he backed behind the little pine, from which he regarded me with growing perplexity. Then, having revenged myself on him, and getting a picture, I left him in peace.
I awoke before dawn, and lay watching the dark shadows change into gray, and gray into light. The Navajo chanted solemnly and low his morning song. I got up with the keen eagerness of the hunter who faces the last day of his hunt.
I warmed my frozen fingers at the fire. A hot breakfast smoked on the red coals. We ate while Navvy fed and saddled the horses.
“Shore, they’ll be somethin’ doin’ to-day,” said Jim, fatalistically.
“We haven’t crippled a horse yet,” put in Emett hopefully. Don led the pack and us down the ridge, out of the pines into the sage. The sun, a red ball, glared out of the eastern mist, shedding a dull glow on the ramparts of the far canyon walls. A herd of white-tailed deer scattered before the hounds. Blue grouse whirred from under our horses’ feet.
“Spread out,” ordered Jones, and though he meant the hounds, we all followed his suggestion, as the wisest course.
Ranger began to work up the sage ridge to the right. Jones, Emett and I followed, while Jim rode away to the left. Gradually the space widened, and as we neared the cedars, a sharply defined, deep canyon separated us.
We heard Don open up, then Sounder. Ranger left the trail he was trying to work out in the thick sage, and bounded in the direction of the rest of the pack. We reined in to listen.
First Don, then Sounder, then Jude, then one of the pups bayed eagerly, telling us they were hunting hard. Suddenly the bays blended in one savage sound.
“Hi! Hi! Hi!” cracked the cool, thin air. We saw Jim wave his hand from the far side of the canyon, spur his horse into action, and disappear into the cedars.
“Stick close together,” yelled Jones, as we launched forward. We made the mistake of not going back to cross the canyon, for the hounds soon went up the opposite side. As we rode on and on, the sounds of the chase lessened, and finally ceased. To our great chagrin we found it necessary to retrace our steps, and when we did get over the deep gully, so much time had elapsed that we despaired of coming up with Jim. Emett led, keeping close on Jim’s trail, which showed plain in the dust, and we followed.
Up and down ravines, over ridges, through sage flats and cedar forests, to and fro, around and around, we trailed Jim and the hounds. From time to time one of us let out a long yell.