It was our mission this day to have a look-see, mebbe as far as Horsefly Mountain, and get a general idee of how many head was already coming down to eat up the so-and-so shortest hay crop that had ever been stacked on the Arrowhead since the dry winter of ’98, when beef fell to two cents a pound, with darned few takers at that.
It was really a day of scenic delight, if one hadn’t to reflect sorely upon the exigencies of the beef-cattle profession, and at least one of us was free of this thrall.
What we reached at last were small mountains rather than big hills; vast exclamatory remnants of shattered granite and limestone, thickly timbered, reckless of line, sharp of peak. One minute canon we viewed from above was quite preposterous in its ambitions, having colour and depth and riot of line in due proportions and quite worthy of the grand scale. It wasn’t a Grand Canon, but at least it was a baby grand, and I loitered on its brink until reminded sharply that I’d better pour leather into that there skate if I wanted to make home that night.
I devoutly did wish to make home that night, for the spot we were on was barren of those little conveniences I am accustomed to. Moreover, the air was keen and a hunger, all day in the building, called for strong meats. So I not too reluctantly passed on from this scenic miniature of parlour dimensions—and from the study of a curious boulder thereby which had intrigued me not a little.
Now we were home and relaxed by the Arrowhead fireside, after a moving repast of baked young sage hens. The already superior dynamics of the meal, moreover, had been appreciably heightened by a bottle of Uncle Henry’s homemade grape wine, which he warmly recommends for colds or parties, or anything like that. It had proved to be a wine of almost a too-recent cru. Ma Pettengill said that if Uncle Henry was aiming to put it on the market in quantity production he had ought to name it the Stingaree brand, because it was sure some stuff, making for malevolence even to the lengths of matricide, if that’s what killing your mother is called. She said, even at a Polish wedding down across the tracks of a big city, it would have the ambulances and patrol wagons clanging up a good half hour quicker than usual.
Be that as it may, or is, when I had expected sleep to steal swiftly to the mending of the day’s ravages I merely found myself wakeful and wondering. This stuff of Uncle Henry’s is an able ferment. I wondered about a lot of things. And at the same time I wondered interminably about that remarkable boulder at the side of the Tom Thumb Grand Canon. I was even wakeful enough and discursive enough—my hostess had taken but one glass from the bottle—to wonder delightedly about all rocks and stones, and geology, and that sort of thing. It was almost scientific, the way I wondered, as I sat there idly toying with my half-filled glass.
Take this particular boulder, for example. It had once been mere star dust, hadn’t it? Some time ago, I mean, or thereabouts. But it had been star dust; and then, next thing it knew, it got to be a kind of cosmic stew, such as leisurely foreigners patch out highways with, and looking no more like a granite boulder than anything.