“We’ve been fools,” observed Jones, meditatively. “The excitement of the game made us lose our wits. I’ll never rope another lion.”
I said nothing. While Moze licked his bloody leg and Don lay with his fine head on my knees, Jones began to skin old Sultan. Once more the strange, infinite silence enfolded the canyon. The far-off golden walls glistened in the sun; farther down, the purple clefts smoked. The many-hued peaks and mesas, aloof from each other, rose out of the depths. It was a grand and gloomy scene of ruin where every glistening descent of rock was but a page of earth’s history.
It brought to my mind a faint appreciation of what time really meant; it spoke of an age of former men; it showed me the lonesome crags of eagles, and the cliff lairs of lions; and it taught mutely, eloquently, a lesson of life—that men are still savage, still driven by a spirit to roam, to hunt, and to slay.
The start of a camping trip, the getting a big outfit together and packed, and on the move, is always a difficult and laborsome job. Nevertheless, for me the preparation and the actual getting under way have always been matters of thrilling interest. This start of my hunt in Arizona, September 24, 1918, was particularly momentous because I had brought my boy Romer with me for his first trip into the wilds.
It may be that the boy was too young for such an undertaking. His mother feared he would be injured; his teachers presaged his utter ruin; his old nurse, with whom he waged war until he was free of her, averred that the best it could do for him would be to show what kind of stuff he was made of. His uncle R.C. was stoutly in favor of taking him. I believe the balance fell in Romer’s favor when I remembered my own boyhood. As a youngster of three I had babbled of “bars an’ buffers,” and woven fantastic and marvelous tales of fiction about my imagined adventures—a habit, alas! I have never yet outgrown.
Anyway we only made six miles’ travel on this September twenty-fourth, and Romer was with us.
Indeed he was omnipresent. His keen, eager joy communicated itself to me. Once he rode up alongside me and said: “Dad, this’s great, but I’d rather do like Buck Duane.” The boy had read all of my books, in spite of parents and teachers, and he knew them by heart, and invariably liked the outlaws and gunmen best of all.
We made camp at sunset, with a flare of gold along the west, and the Peaks rising rosy and clear to the north. We camped in a cut-over pine forest, where stumps and lopped tops and burned deadfalls made an aspect of blackened desolation. From a distance, however, the scene was superb. At sunset there was a faint wind which soon died away.