He went and slipped the letter into the mail-box, turned his back on the three, and walked out as if nothing had happened; perhaps he knew that I was watching them, in a mood to do things if they offered to touch him. But they didn’t, and we mounted our horses and rode away, and Perry Potter never mentioned the affair to me, then or after. I don’t think we spoke on the way to the ranch; I was busy wishing I’d been around in that part of the world thirty years before, and thinking what a lot of fun I had missed by not being as old as dad. A quarrel thirty years old is either mighty stale and unprofitable, or else, like wine, it improves with age. I meant to ride over to King’s Highway some day, and see how he would have welcomed dad thirty years before.
Through King’s Highway.
It was a long time before I was in a position to gratify my curiosity, though; between the son and heir, with nothing to do but amuse himself, and a cowboy working for his daily wage, there is a great gulf fixed. After being put on the pay-roll, I couldn’t do just as my fancy prompted. I had to get up at an ungodly hour, and eat breakfast in about two minutes, and saddle a horse and “ride circle” with the rest of them—which same is exceeding wearisome to man and beast. For the first time since I left school, I was under orders; and the foreman certainly tried to obey dad’s mandate and treat me just as he would have treated any other stranger. I could give it up, of course—but I hope never to see the day when I can be justly called a quitter.
First, we were rounding up horses—saddlers that were to be ridden in the round-up proper. We were not more than two or three weeks at that, though we covered a good deal of country. Before it was over I knew a lot more than when we started out, and had got hard as nails; riding on round-up beats a gym for putting wire muscles under a man’s skin, in my opinion. We worked all around White Divide—which was turning a pale, dainty green except where the sandstone cliffs stood up in all the shades of yellow and red. Montana, as viewed on “horse round-up,” looks better than in the first bleak days of March, and I could gaze upon it without profanity. I even got to like tearing over the newborn grass on a good horse, with a cowboy or two galloping, keen-faced and calm, beside me. It was almost better than slithering along a hard road with a motor-car stripped to the running-gear.
When the real thing happened—the “calf round-up”—and thirty riders in white felt hats, chaps, spurs a-jingle, and handkerchief ends flying out in the wind, lined up of a morning for orders, the blood of me went a-jump, and my nerves were all tingly with the pure joy of being alive and atop a horse as eager as hounds in the leash and with the wind of the plains in my face and the grass-land lying all around, yelling come on, and the meadowlarks singing fit to split their throats. There’s nothing like it—and I’ve tried nearly everything in the way of blood-tinglers. Skimming through the waves, alean to the wind in a racing-yacht, comes nearest, and even that takes second money when circle-riding on round-up is entered in the race. But this is getting away from my story.