An hour after sunrise, the drag-net was drawing together the first round-up of the day. The importance of handling heavy beeves without any excitement was fully understood, and to gather a shipment without disturbing those remaining was a task that required patience and intelligence. Men on the outside circle merely turned the cattle on the extremes of the range; they were followed by inner horsemen, and the drag-net closed at a grazing pace, until the round-up halted on a few acres.
The first three shipments had tried out the remuda. The last course in the education of a cow-horse is cutting cattle out of a mixed round-up. On the present work, those horses which had proven apt were held in reserve, and while the first contingent of cattle was quieting down, the remuda was brought up and saddles shifted to four cutting horses. The average cow can dodge and turn quicker than the ordinary horse, and only a few of the latter ever combine action and intelligence to outwit the former. Cunning and ingenuity, combined with the required alertness, a perfect rein, coupled with years of actual work, produce that rarest of range mounts—the cutting horse.
Dell had been promised a trial in cutting out beeves. Sargent took him in hand, and mounted on two picked horses, they entered the herd. “Now, I’ll pick the beeves,” said the latter, “and you cut them out. All you need to do is to rein that horse down on your beef, and he’ll take him out of the herd. Of course you’ll help the horse some little; but if you let too many back, I’ll call our wrangler and try him out. That horse knows the work just as well as you do. Now, go slow, and don’t ride over your beef.”
The work commenced. The beeves were lazy from flesh, inactive, and only a few offered any resistance to the will of the horsemen. Dell made a record of cutting out fifty beeves in less than an hour, and only letting one reenter the herd. The latter was a pony-built beef, and after sullenly leaving the herd, with the agility of a cat, he whirled right and left on the space of a blanket, and beat the horse back into the round-up. Sargent lent a hand on the second trial, and when the beef saw that resistance was useless, he kicked up his heels and trotted away to join those selected for shipment.
“He’s laughing at you,” said Sargent. “He only wanted to try you out. Just wanted to show you that no red-headed boy and flea-bit horse could turn him. And he showed you.”
“This beats roping,” admitted Dell, as the two returned to the herd, quite willing to change the subject. “Actually when a beef reaches the edge of the herd, this horse swells up and his eyes pop out like door-knobs. You can feel every muscle in him become as rigid as ropes, and he touches the ground as if he was walking on eggs. Look at him now; goes poking along as if he was half asleep.”
“He’s a cutting horse and doesn’t wear himself out. Whenever you can strip the bridle off, while cutting out a beef, and handle your steer, that’s the top rung a cow-horse can reach. He’s a king pin—that’s royalty.”