I guess I blushed. Anyway, I didn’t think of anything to say that would be either witty or squelching, and could only relight my cigarette and look the fool I felt. He’d caught me right in the solar plexus, and we both knew it, and there was nothing to say. So after awhile we commenced talking about a new bunch of horses that dad had bought through an agent, and that had to be saddle-broke that summer, and I kept my eyes away from White Divide and my mind from all it meant to me.
The old ranch did look good to me, and Perry Potter actually shook hands; if you knew him as well as I do you’d realize better what such a demonstration means, coming from a fellow like him. Why, even his lips are always shut with a drawstring—from the looks—to keep any words but what are actually necessary from coming out. His eyes have the same look, kind of pulled in at the corners. No, don’t ever accuse Perry Potter of being a demonstrative man, or a loquacious one.
I had two days at the ranch, getting fitted into the life again; on the third the round-up started, and I packed a “war-bag” of essentials, took my last summer’s chaps down off the nail in the bunk-house where they had hung all that time as a sort of absent-but-not-forgotten memento, one of the boys told me, and started out in full regalia and with an enthusiasm that was real—while it lasted.
If you never slept on the new grass with only a bit of canvas between you and the stars; if you have never rolled out, at daylight, and dressed before your eyes were fair open, and rushed with the bunch over to the mess-wagon for your breakfast; if you have never saddled hurriedly a range-bred and range-broken cayuse with a hump in his back and seven devils in his eye, and gone careening across the dew-wet prairie like a tug-boat in a choppy sea; if you have never—well, if you don’t know what it’s all like, and how it gets into the very bones of you so that the hankering never quite leaves you when you try to give it up, I’m not going to tell you. I can’t. If I could, you’d know just how heady it made me feel those first few days after we started out to “work the range.”
I was fond of telling myself, those days, that I’d been more scared than hurt, and that it was the range I was in love with, and not Beryl King at all. She was simply a part of it—but she wasn’t the whole thing, nor even a part that was going to be indispensable to my mental comfort. I was a free man once more, and so long as I had a good horse under me, and a bunch of the right sort of fellows to lie down in the same tent with, I wasn’t going to worry much over any girl.
That, for as long as a week; and that, more than pages of description, shows you how great is the spell of the range-land, and how it grips a man.
We Meet Once More.
I think it was about three weeks that I stayed with the round-up. I didn’t get tired of the life, or weary of honest labor, or anything of that sort. I think the trouble was that I grew accustomed to the life, so that the exhilarating effects of it wore off, or got so soaked into my system that I began to take it all as a matter of course. And that, naturally, left room for other things.