The rendezvous was to be at ten o’clock on Encampment Butte, a plateau overlooking the entire hunting-field and visible for miles. An hour before the appointed time the clans began to gather. All the camps within twenty-five miles, and which were entertaining participants of the hunt, put in a prompt appearance. Word was received early that morning that a contingent from the Eagle Chief would be there, and begged that the start be delayed till their arrival. A number of old cowmen were present, and to them was delegated the duty of appointing the officers of the day. Bill Miller, a foreman on the Coldwater Pool, an adjoining range, was appointed as first captain. There were also several captains over divisions, and an acting captain placed over every ten men, who would be held accountable for any disorder allowed along the line under his special charge.
The question of forbidding the promiscuous carrying of firearms met with decided opposition. There was an element of danger, it was true, but to deprive any of the boys of arms on what promised an exciting day’s sport was contrary to their creed and occupation; besides, their judicious use would be an essential and valuable assistance. To deny one the right and permit another, would have been to divide their forces against a common enemy; so in the interests of harmony it was finally concluded to assign an acting captain over every ten men. “I’ll be perfectly responsible for any of my men,” said Reese, a red-headed Welsh cowman from over on Black Bear. “Let’s just turn our wild selves loose, and those wolves won’t stand any more show than a coon in a bear dance.”
“It would be fine satisfaction to be shot by a responsible man like you or any of your outfit,” replied Hollycott, superintendent of the “LX.” “I hope another Christmas Day to help eat a plum pudding on the banks of the Dee, and I don’t want to be carrying any of your stray lead in my carcass either. Did you hear me?”
“Yes; we’re going to have egg-nog at our camp to-night. Come down.”
The boys were being told off in squads of ten, when a suppressed shout of welcome arose, as a cavalcade of horsemen was sighted coming over the divide several miles distant. Before the men were allotted and their captains appointed, the last expected squad had arrived, their horses frosty and sweaty. They were all well known west end Strippers, numbering fifty-four men and having ridden from the Eagle Chief, thirty-five miles, starting two hours before daybreak.
With the arrival of this detachment, Miller gave his orders for the day. Tom Cave was given two hundred men and sent to the upper end of the grove, where they were to dismount, form in a half circle skirmish-line covering the width of the thicket, and commence the drive down the river. Their saddle horses were to be cut into two bunches and driven down on either side of the grove, and to be in readiness for the men when they emerged from the chaparral, four of